Skip to main content
InfoGuides | Pepperdine Libraries

History: Primary Source Databases

What is a Primary Source

A primary source is "first-hand" information, sources as close as possible to the origin of the information or idea under study. Primary sources are contrasted with secondary sources, works that provide analysis, commentary, or criticism on the primary source. In literary studies, primary sources are often creative works, including poems, stories, novels, and so on. In historical studies, primary sources include written works, recordings, or other source of information from people who were participants or direct witnesses to the events in question. Examples of commonly used primary sources include government documents, memoirs, personal correspondence, oral histories, and contemporary newspaper accounts.

Locating Primary Source with WorldCat Local

Search the Pepperdine University Libraries Catalog for books, ebooks, DVDs, journals, and more

Search for an item in The Pepperdine Libraries:
WorldCat.org >>

By using a proper search strategy, the library catalog is an effective tool for lcoating books that are primary sources. WorldCat Local will search for items at the Pepperdine University Libraries and over 70,000 libraries worldwide.

Search by people who witnessed or participated in an event:

  • Harrry Truman
  • Leon Trotsky
  • Jackie Robinson
  • Bartolome De Las Casas
  • Jesse Owens
  • Saint Augustine

The Library of Congress assigns subject headings that are useful for restricting your search to primaryu sources:

  • correspondence
  • diaries
  • early works to 1800
  • interviews
  • pamphlets
  • personal narratives
  • sources
  • biography (An autobiography is a primary source.Check to see if the author's name also appears in the subject field.)
  • oral history

Please note: books with the phrase "documentary history" in the title often contain primary sources.

You can also restrict your search to books that were written at the time of the historical event to limit your results to primary sources.

Google Books

Google Book Search allows you to search the full-text of books. Many books in the public domain (not subject to copyright) will be available in the full-text. These older books will be primary sources if they were written by someone who observed or participated in a historical event.
Tips for locating primary sources with Google Books:
  • Click the link for Advanced Search and search with someone who observed or particpated in the event as an author
  • Set the date range to a time that is relatively close to the historical event that you are researching.

Center for Research Libraries

Historical Magazines and Newspapers

Other Primary Source Databases