Primary sources are the foundation of historical research. They provide first-hand or contemporary documentation of the time period, culture, events, people, and places you are researching. Examples of primary sources include:
Whether or not a source is a primary source sometimes depends on context. For instance, Arthur Miller's play The Crucible would not be considered a primary source for research on the Salem Witch Trials. It would, however, be a primary source for a study of McCarthyism and the Red Scare.
Primary sources are available at UF in a variety of physical formats, including books, periodicals, microform, and archival materials. Finding primary sources in the physical collections can be challenging since they are often shelved alongside secondary sources. The library catalog can help you to locate primary sources that may be on the shelf.
Start by conducting a search for your topic in the UF Library Catalog.
Use the "Genre" facet to limit your results to types of primary sources. Look for terms such as Biography, Correspondence, Diaries, Early Works, Facsimiles, Interviews, Manuscripts, Narratives, Notebooks, Pamphlets, Sources, or Speeches.
Note: The Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), which determine the Genre facet, use "Sources" instead of "Primary Sources." "Biography" also refers to autobiographies.
Several of the databases available through the UF Libraries contain primary sources. The contents of these databases can vary widely. Some offer access to the contents of one or two specific archival collections, while others draw on contents held by multiple organizations. Some databases are curated to contain documents related to a specific topic, while others cover multiple topics but may focus on a type of source, such as newspapers or sound recordings.
To find databases that focus on primary sources, a good starting point is to go to the A-Z Databases list and filter your results by "Vendor/Provider." A few vendors focus on primary source content.
The following databases have a broad range of primary sources covering multiple topics and time periods:
The Special and Area Studies Collections (SASC) are home to archival materials that reflect a wide range of cultures, geographical locations, time periods, and disciplines. To explore the physical holdings of SASC, browse the UF Archival and Manuscript Finding Aids. You can also search SASC materials using the library catalog.
Some of the collections from SASC have been digitized and can be found in the UF Digital Collections (UFDC), along with other digital content from UF and partner institutions. (UFDC contents will not appear in the library catalog.)
Need to access sources that aren't available at UF? There are a few places to look:
When looking for primary sources outside of the UF Libraries, it is important to allow yourself plenty of extra time. Although the number of digitized collections continues to grow, some things are only available in person. Many archival items are not available through ILL. You may need to visit the archive, museum, or library in order to view their collections. Before planning a research visit, make sure you contact the institution to verify availability of the materials you need and learn about the institution's policies regarding visiting researchers.