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Ancient and Medieval Art

Primary Sources

Primary sources are materials created at the time of the topic you are researching, or by an eyewitness to the topic.  Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during an historical event or time period.  They are not commentary about your topic, but are the topic you are commenting about. 

Finding Primary Sources in the Library Catalog

There are certain words that appear in the subject headings of items in the library catalog that constitute primary sources.  The term used most frequently is sources, but there are others.  To identify primary sources in the library catalog, follow these steps:

1. Go to Advanced Search
2. Enter your keyword(s) in the first search box, leaving "Anywhere" in the dropdown box
3. Enter the word sources in the next search box, and select "Subject Heading" from the dropdown box

You'll notice that sources appears in the subject headings section of each item in your results list, indicating the presence or inclusion of primary sources in that item.  Depending on the period being studied, it can also be helpful to limit your search by publication date.  

Other search terms that might help you find primary sources include:

  • correspondence
  • letters
  • sermons
  • chronicles
  • records
  • diaries
  • personal narratives
  • memoirs
  • interviews
  • speeches

NOTE: This is just a tip - it will NOT always give you results. 

Primary Sources on the Web

Search for Primary Sources online using the same strategy of keywords combined with "primary sources," "documents," or other types of primary sources.  Be sure to evaluate the websites you find, and use only credible, authoritative source: 

Currency: Is the information current and up-to-date?

Relevance: Does the information have anything to do with your topic?

Authority: Is it authoritative?

Accuracy: Is reliable and true?

Purpose: Why does the information exist?