Skip to Main Content
Michigan State University

MC 202: For the Children (Sykes)

Spring 2023

What are primary sources?

Primary sources are materials which provide first-hand evidence of an event, a social movement, or daily life in a particular time and place. Common examples of primary sources are letters, diaries, photographs, and oral history interviews. Depending on your research context, primary sources might also include newspaper articles, data, laws, treaties, or other legal documents.

Online Primary Sources: Childhood


Newspapers and Other Media


Primary Sources in the Library: Childhood

The Library has primary sources in the collection located both in the regular shelves (which you have access to) and in Special Collections (which a librarian will get for you and which you'll use in the Special Collections Reading Room). 

To access primary sources (and other items within our collection), you will click on the Books & Media link on the homepage (  From there, you can do a keyword search, an advanced search (my default choice), a title search, or an author search.

Finding Primary Sources in the Library

1.  Works BY Important People in the Field

Use the author tab to narrow your search to things BY the person (not just about the person).  You can also use the author tab for organizations.

2.  Use Special Keywords

Item Type:

  • For letters, use "letters" or "correspondence"

  • For interviews, use "interview" or "personal narrative"

  • For diaries, use "diaries" or "journals"

  • For pictures, use "photographs", "posters" or "pictorial works"

  • For cartoons, use "editorial cartoon" or "political cartoon" or "caricature"

Subject Terms:

  • When you find a useful item, you'll see "subject headings" linked at the bottom of the item's record.  Those are good ways to browse and see what else the library has.  

  • For example:

    • Child labor -- History

    • Rural children -- United States

    • Families -- United States

3.  Limit the Time Period

Use the "within" field to limit the time period of your search.​

Michigan State University