Skip to main content
University of Detroit Mercy logo

Primary vs. Secondary Sources: Welcome

Finding Primary Sources in the Catalog

To find primary sources in the library catalog, try a keyword search using your topic and one of the following terms:

  • Diary, 
  • Memoir
  • Autobiography
  • Correspondence
  • Personal narrative
  • Speech
  • Oral history
  • Interview
  • Manuscript
  • Documents

Primary Sources on the Internet

You can use the same terms to search for primary sources on the internet as you do in the catalog.  You will often find them on museum or archives websites.  Here are a few large collections of primary sources (remember that not everything on each website is necessarily a primary source):

Primary vs. Secondary Sources


A primary source is a docment, recording or physical object that conveys a first-hand account or direct evidence of an event or time period.  Primary sources also include publications (often journal articles) which report ther results of or data from original research. (Note: digital, microform or published copies of original materials can still be considered primary sources as long as their content is unchanged)


Primary sources can include: 

  • Diaries, interviews, memoirs, oral histories, and letters from first-hand observers
  • Video and sound recordings and photographs
  • Government documents such as birth or marriage certificates, census records, and trial transcripts
  • Maps
  • Physical artifacts such as medals, clothing,and tapestries 
  • Survey research such as market surveys or opinion polls
  • Journal articles revealing the results of original research

Secondary sources are produced after an even occurs by someone who was not present during the event.  They often cite primary sources and attempt to interpret, evaluate or analyze original sources.

   Examples of Secondary sources include:    

  • History textbooks
  • Encyclopedias
  • Commentaries, criticisms and analyses
  • Biographies and bibliographies



These databases include a wealth of primary sources in specialized areas:


Primary materials in newspapers include databases include eyewitness accounts and interviews.  Click here for links to newspaper databases.