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HIST 214: Sandin, J. (Spring 2024): Primary sources

What is a primary source?

What is Primary Source?

A primary source is information in its original form. A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time that is being studied. It has NOT been interpreted or translated. 

Examples of Primary Sources Include
  • Audio: oral histories, memoirs, interviews, music
  • Images: photographs, videos, film, fine art
  • Objects: clothing, tools, pottery gravestones, weapons, memorabilia
  • Statistics: Census data, population statistics, weather records
  • Text: letters, diaries, original documents, legal agreements, treaties, maps, laws, advertisements, recipes, genealogical information, sermons/lectures

Remember: A copy of a primary source is also a primary source!

You might find primary sources on your topic in TCC books and reference books (both print and online), magazines, newspapers (TCC research databases), and on academic institution and archive websites that host special historical collections.

Primary sources at the TCC Library

The TCC Library collection contains a number of primary source materials on the history of the PNW.  

To find these sources in the library catalog, try incorporating the keywords listed below in your catalog search.

  • narrative
  • diary
  • journal
  • travels
  • letters
  • eyewitness

An example search might be look like this, depending on your chosen topic:

Find primary sources - Historic New York Times

As a TCC student, you are able to set up an account for the New York Times, which is a great source for finding primary sources. 

Here's how to set up your account::

  1. Click on this link (
  2. Complete the steps to set up your account

Here's how to search for your topic:

  1. Click the 3-barred icon on the top left of the page
  2. Click "More" at the very bottom of the list
  3. Select "Timesmachine."
  4. Click on the magnifying glass search icon on the top right
  5. Click "change dates" at the bottom of the box
  6. It will automatically look for articles written beginning in 1851 but you'll need to change the ending date to fit your research needs.
  7. Now enter your search terms in the search box. 
  8. Click search.


Online primary source websites

Find primary sources - JSTOR database

Finding primary sources in JSTOR is straightforward. Here's how:

1. Enter your search term(s) in the search box and click "search."

2. On the left of the page look for "Primary Source Content."

3. Select the format preference.


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