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THIST 456 North American Regions: Mississippi River Valley - Allen: Locating primary sources

What is a primary source?

Primary sources include documents or artifacts created by a witness to or participant in an event.  They can be firsthand testimony or evidence created during the time period that you are studying. 

Primary sources may include diaries, letters, photographs, newspaper articles, government documents, poems, novels, plays, and music.  The collection and analysis of primary sources is central to historical research.

Online Primary Sources for the Mississippi Valley

More primary sources: government documents, magazines, and newspapers


Primary Source Example (found in UW Libraries Search -- see below)

Although this ebook in its current form was published in 2001, it was originally published in 1909 and is definitely a primary source for the time period from 1854-1863

General Collections for U.S. History

UW Libraries Search with Tips


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Tips for Searching:

Once you've run a search, use the "Refine My Results" options on the left side of the page.  It's a quick way to drill down to the most useful results without paging through a lot of items you're not really interested inOptions often include:

  • Resource type (examples: book, article)
  • Library (example: UW Tacoma)
  • Creation date
  • Language
  • Topic
  • Classification LCC (Library of Congress call numbers)


Search Terms for Primary Sources

Terms useful for locating primary sources in the UW Libraries Catalog:

  • sources
  • personal narratives
  • correspondence
  • letters
  • diaries
  • journals
  • interviews
  • sermons
  • documents
  • papers