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Primary Source Research

Resources and research strategies for finding and using primary sources in the humanities

Research Tools Overview

Primary sources can be found in many online resources and in numerous library databases. Some of these tools cover a range of topics; others focus on a certain time period or topic. Use this page's navigation menu to identify the kinds of resources you need.

See the Search Strategies page for tips on how to search in these different tools.

Research Starting Points for Primary Sources

Below are good starting points for finding primary sources on a wide range of topics.

Background Sources for Gaining Context

If you have a general topic and need background information, these reference databases have short articles that often include references to primary sources or to secondary sources that may lead to key primary sources.

Online Research Tools for Primary Sources on Most Topics

If you have a specific topic in mind, you use a search engine like Google for primary sources or digital collections on the topic (search examples: "digital collections" "atomic bomb", "primary sources" "atomic bomb").

See the Research Tools page for a fuller list of recommended resources.

Primary Source Databases

Primary Sources Database Lists (Alphabetical/By Subject)

Note: Some primary source databases include a large number of subcollections. See Subcollections in Large Databases for details on the following databases: Accessible Archives, AM Explorer, Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Gale Primary Sources, HIstory Vault, Nineteenth Century Collections Online, and ProQuest Primary Sources. 

General Primary Source Databases

(Cover a wide range of time periods and topics)

Time/Topic Specific

American History Primary Sources

World, Government, and Law Primary Sources

Newspaper Databases

Newspapers give insight into how an event or issue was reported on at a given historical moment.

Historical Newspapers

Current Newspapers

University Archives & Special Collections

University Archives & Special Collections (Campbell Library, 3rd floor) has primary sources related to the history of RU and the surrounding region. Learn more about their physical and online collections.