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Hunter Library
Research Guides
Western Carolina University

History: Primary Sources


What is a primary source?

Primary sources are original material from the time of the topic under investigation. Often, these are accounts by someone who experienced the event first-hand (Turabian Manual, 8th edition). In contrast, a secondary source includes analysis of primary sources.

Examples of Primary Sources/Suggested Search Terms


Search Term: Correspondence

An 1864 Letter from WCU Special Collections.

Diaries & Journals

Search Terms: Diaries or Personal Narratives

Diary entry.

Original Reporting (News)


Front page of a 1943 Sylva Herald Issue.

Interviews and Oral Histories

Search Terms: interviews or anecdotes

Person Interviewing another on front porch.



Map of Jackson County.

Photos and Images

Search Terms: pictorial works or portraits

Photograph of a couple by a car from WCU Special Collections.

Legal Documents, Acts, Cases, Hearings

First Page, Acts of Assembly of the State of North Carolina, 1777 from the State Library of NC.

Where to find primary sources

Primary sources can be found for free online, in the library's collection, and in library databases. Here are some places to start.

Test your knowledge!