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Michigan State University

HST 110: Remembering War and Disaster (Fall 2017): Primary Sources in the Catalog

What is a Primary Source?

Primary sources provide direct or firsthand evidence about an event, person, or object. These sources are contemporary to the events and people described. In the context of historical research, primary sources are sources that were created during the specific time period being studied. 

Some examples of primary sources include: 

  • Newspaper articles
  • Diaries
  • Letters
  • Memoirs and autobiographies
  • Speeches
  • Photographs
  • Novels, poems
  • Government documents

Search the MSU Catalog

Advanced Catalog Search

You can find a variety of primary sources using the MSU Library Catalog. When searching the catalog, use the word AND to connect multiple search terms, and use OR to search for multiple terms with similar meanings (for example, infantry OR army). In addition, remember to put phrases, such as "personal narratives," in quotes in order to search for this complete phrase.

In addition to using search terms that correspond with your research topic, add the following terms to your search in order to find specific types of primary sources:

  • correspondence
  • letters
  • memoirs or autobiographies
  • diaries
  • personal narratives
  • sources

For example, to find primary sources on civil war soldiers, you can search:

"united states" AND "civil war" AND soldiers AND (letters or "personal narratives")

You can also limit your search by date on the Advanced Catalog Search page:


Sarah Klimek's picture
Sarah Klimek
U.S. History Librarian
(517) 884-7435
Michigan State University