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HIS-180 (Bailey, Fall 2019)

Finding Primary Sources in the Library

Primary sources are first-hand accounts, original works, or original research, produced at the time or immediately after the event it is about.  Primary sources come in many formats, including correspondence, diaries, official government documents, minutes of meetings, and much more.

To locate primary source material housed at Moore Library, use the Library's catalog's subject search.


Select the Advanced Search feature.  Type your general search term such as "continental congress" in the first box and select "Keyword Anywhere".  Then in the second box type "sourc*" or "correspondence*" or another more focused term.  Then select Subject as the search catagory.



Search Results


The search gives you 121 results:


Take a look at the address or URL.  Do you know what the domain names are for websites?  Here are the ones you will see most often.

 .com = commercial

   .org = organization

.net = network

  • Internet service provider
  • Originally for network providers but could be commercial or individual sites now

 .gov = government

   edu = education

  • College or university site
  • Could be serious research or a student site
  • Mainly reliable/factual



ANYONE can publish on the Web! What you see are a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Evaluate each website critically before using it for your research.

Use these 5 criteria to evaluate the information you find on a website.
  • Who is the author?
  • Is the author an expert on the subject?
  • Can you verify the author's credentials? 
Unlike traditional information sources where editors or fact checkers are involved, there are no rules on the web.
  • Are there obvious errors in grammar or spelling?
  • Are there references provided for facts presented?
  • Can you verify the facts presented using other sources?
The purpose of a website is usually not clearly stated. 
Numerous websites are sponsored by those who want to sway opinion, advertise, or just have fun.
  • Is the information biased or appear to be promoting a specific political, religious, ideololgical viewpoint?
  • Are both sides of a controversial issue presented?
Often no dates are provided, or if they are it is not always clear if they refer to when the site was first published or last revised.
  • Is there a date confirming when the information was published?
  • When was the website last revised or updated?
  • Do the links work?
Coverage of a subject can vary depending on the author's intent.  It may be brief or more in depth with links to references.  It may actually be a hoax or a parody. 
  • Is the information in depth or general?
  • Is the purpose to inform or is it just a joke?


Now, step  back and ask yourself, what is the intent of the website? 
Why has this information been put on the web?
Does it all add up?
Is it appropriate for your purpose? Why or why not?