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What Are Primary Sources?
Primary Sources May Include
TWU Libraries Primary Sources
Finding Primary Sources On The Web
Finding Photographs And Other Non-Text Sources
Secondary Sources
Selected Books on Primary Resources

Primary Sources

What Are Primary Sources?

Primary sources are original records or evidence created at the time historical events occurred or published in the form of a memoirs and oral histories. Primary sources could be about a person, event or series of events. Materials found in primary sources are used to support their arguments and opinions about their research topic.

Please note that Primary sources vary by discipline.

Primary Sources May Include

  • Advertising
  • Art
  • Audio recordings
  • Autobiographies
  • Books from the time period you're writing about
  • Brochures, pamphlets, postcards, programs, advertisements
  • Cartoons
  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Drama
  • Eye witness accounts
  • Government documents
  • Interviews
  • Journals
  • Legal documents
  • Letters
  • Literary works
  • Manuscripts
  • Maps
  • Memoirs
  • Moving pictures or video recordings including news, films, music, drama
  • Newspapers
  • Objects or artifacts such as works of art or ancient roads, buildings, tools, clothing, furniture and weapons
  • Official records (birth, marriage, death)
  • Personal narratives
  • Photographs
  • Results of an experiment
  • Speeches
  • Statistical data
  • Transcribed interviews

TWU Libraries Primary Sources

Children’s Collection

  • The Children's Collection and Children's Historical Collection are located in Blagg-Huey Library on the Garden Level. The collection includes illustrated children's books, orginal artwork and teen literature.


Digital Collections

  • Woman's Digital Collection
    • Photographs, manuscript descriptions, oral history, artifacts and clothing and textiles.
  • Women Airforce Service Pilots
    • 1100 U.S. women who served as pilots for the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. View digital photographs and descriptions of personal and military records and memorabilia.
  • University Archive
    • Discover TWU history through digital photographs and descriptions of university and alumnae collection descriptions.
  • Clarabel Tanner Collection
    • This distinguished collection includes 11 original works by winners of the prestigious Caldecott award for the single most distinguished contribution to children's book illustration in a given year, as well as eight pieces by Caldecott award runner up illustrators, and an original 19th century woodcut by the master himself, Randolph Caldecott.
  • Women in Aviation
    • Browse images, collection descriptions, documents and artifacts pertaining to women and civilian military pilots. Includes the official records of several women pilot groups including Whirly-Girls, Women Military Aviators and Mercury 13.
  • Les Wilk Collection Texas Glamour: Les Wilk Designs
    • Browse over one hundred photographs of designs by Les Wilk (1931-1995), fashion designer and former Resident Director of Texas Woman's University's Southwest Institute of Design.

Selected Print Collections

Cook Book Collection

From abundance to diets, from prohibition to war, TWU's collection of cookbooks richly illustrates decades of America's changing relationship with food. It contains 15,000 books, 3500 vendors' pamphlets, recipe books dating from 1624, conduct manuals, and menus from around the world.

Woman’s Collection

The Woman's Collection is located on Level 2 of the Library and represents a major research collection on the history of American women. Access to and assistance with the Collection is available Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

University Archives

The University Archive houses decades of history chronicling TWU’s unique standing among Texas colleges and universities. Established in 1901 by the Texas Legislature as the Girls Industrial College, TWU held its first classes in 1903. In 1905, the name was changed to College of Industrial Arts (CIA); in 1934 to Texas State College for Women (TSCW); and in 1957 to Texas Woman’s University.

Finding Primary Sources on the Web

Here are a few sites to start looking for primary sources:

Finding Photographs and Other Non-Text Sources

Going to a major collection of photographs is the best way to find a historic image.

Some major collections include:

Selected Books on Primary Sources

America's history through young voices: using primary sources in the K-12 social studies classroom
Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon, c2005
Main Library E175.8 .W94 2005

Milestone documents of American leaders: exploring the primary sources of notable Americans / Paul Finkelman, editor in chief; James A. Percoco, consulting editor.
Dallas, Tex.: Schlager Group, c2009
Main Library – Reference E173 .M623 2009

American nation: primary sources / edited by Bruce P. Frohnen.
Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008
Main Library E173 .A747 2008

Milestone documents in African American history : exploring the essential primary sources/ Paul Finkelman, editor in chief.
Dallas, Tex. : Schlager Group Inc, c2010
Main Library – Reference E184.6 .M55 2010

Milestone documents in American history: exploring the primary sources that shaped America / Paul Finkelman, editor in chief; Bruce A. Lesh, consulting editor.
Dallas, Tex.: Schlager Group, c2008
Main Library – Reference E173 .M62 2008

Reading primary sources the interpretation of texts from nineteenth- and twentieth-century history
London; New York: Routledge, 2009

Uncovering our history: teaching with primary sources / Susan H. Veccia.
Chicago: American Library Association, 2004
Main Library E175.8 .V43 2004

Using internet primary sources to teach critical thinking skills in geography electronic resource / Martha B. Sharma and Gary S. Elbow.
Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000

Using Internet primary sources to teach critical thinking skills in government, economics, and contemporary world issues electronic resource / James M. Shiveley and Phillip J. VanFossen.
Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, c2001

Using Internet primary sources to teach critical thinking skills in mathematics electronic resource / Evan Glazer.
Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001

Using Internet primary sources to teach critical thinking skills in visual arts / Pamela J. Eyerdam.
Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited, c2003
Main Library N380 .E95 2003

Using Internet primary sources to teach critical thinking skills in world languages electronic resource / Grete Pasch and Kent Norsworthy.
Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001
Children's Collection P53.285 .P37 2001

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources provide interpretation and analysis of primary sources. Secondary sources are one step removed from the original event.

Examples of Secondary Sources

  • Main Library – Reference CT213 .A68 1999
  • Literary criticism analyzing a play, poem, novel, or short story
  • Magazine or newspaper articles about events or people
  • Articles in newspapers and magazines are usually considered secondary sources. However, if a story in a newspaper about the Iraq war is an eyewitness account, that would be a primary source.
  • Political commentary analyzing an election or politician
  • Textbooks

page last updated 7/18/2017 10:27 AM