Primary Resources

As you have learned in class, primary sources are of the utmost value to the historian.  In the National History Day competition, primary sources are essential to any successful research and project. In fact, according to their website, “Primary sources should make up a substantial share of the research for all History Day entries”. You must rely on primary resources in order to succeed in your research and your eventual project (whichever form you choose).

In searching for your primary source materials, you may want to consult the secondary sources that you collect.  Any decent secondary source will be based on primary sources top some degree, and those sources should be noted in the footnotes or bibliography.  For example, if you were researching the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955, you may find a great secondary source about the event.  Within that secondary source, there are bound to be quotes from interviews, speeches, documents, rallies, and interactions between individuals involved in the boycott.  Using the footnotes of bibliography of the book, you can find the names of those sources and then search for them online or at the library

Where can you physically find these primary sources?  Many will be available online, and the National History Day website has a great list of US History Primary Sources and Major Web Sites that you can consult.  You can also do a simple internet search for your specific topic, and then refine your search to find more specific sources.  Don’t forget that interviews are primary sources as well1  Another possible idea is to write to a museum, education center, or library that specializes in your topic and ask for primary resource material – at least they could send you in the right direction.

National History Day provides A Research Roadmap by Jodi Vandenberg-Daves, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse detailing the importance of primary source materials – check it out if you have a chance.

Leave a Reply