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Primary and Secondary Sources: Finding Primary Sources

A guide for identifying primary and secondary sources designed and created by Clark Librarians

Genre Keywords

There are different types of primary sources. One way to search is using a genre keyword + your topic keyword(s).

For first-person evidence, try using:

  • Memoir
  • Autobiography
  • Personal narrative
  • Diary

For lists or statistics, try:

  • Almanac
  • Directory
  • Guide
  • Yearbook

Example searches:

  • Memoir and "civil rights movement"
  • Almanac and literature


Where to Search

For archival collections, use a finding aid repository like


For digital surrogates of archival materials (like historical photos, or scans of letters or diaries), use a digital primary source repository like


For books that have been mass-digitized (most materials currently in the public domain, pre-1925), try


  • Select the date range the sources you're looking for would have been published
    • For example, for primary sources about the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, you might use 1941-1950
  • Display search results from oldest to newest

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