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History Research Guide: Primary Sources

This guide is intended as a point to departure for research in history. You will find search strategies to help guide your exploration of historical sources, as well as recommended databases.

Where to start with Primary Sources?

Many of the resources in the  A-Z List of databases contain primary source content of interest to historians, but the size of the list makes it difficult to navigate. On this page you will find a list of best bet primary source databases to help start the search for primary sources. These databases or either provided by BGSU or are open access sources provided by other academic or cultural institutions.

If you are looking for historic newspapers please visit:

What are Primary Sources?

Primary sources are first-hand accounts of an event or time in history that has yet to be interpreted by another person.

Examples of primary sources include:

  • diaries, journals, letters, interviews, speeches, memos, manuscripts and other first-person accounts
  • memoirs and autobiographies
  • official records such as government publications, census data, court reports, police records
  • minutes, reports, correspondence of an organization or agency
  • newspaper and magazine articles written during the time of the event
  • photographs, paintings, film and television programs, audio recordings which document an event
  • research such as opinion polls which document attitudes and thought during the time of an event
  • artifacts such as objects, tools, clothing, etc. of the time period or event

Primary Source Best Bet Databases