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This guide includes encyclopedias, dictionaries, biographical sources, indexes to journal articles, sources for reproductions, and web links to local libraries.

What are primary sources?

Primary sources are materials that provide direct evidence or firsthand testimony concerning the period or subject under investigation.  These raw, uninterpreted materials document the events witnessed firsthand that have been recorded by the creator(s) of the materials.  Primary sources allow you to make your own interpretations without having to rely on what other scholars have already written on the topic.

Examples of Primary Sources


HINT: Use your Secondary Sources!

When trying to find primary sources, look in the bibliography of your best research sources.  This will show you what primary sources the author used for their research and is a great place for you to start your own research!

Archival Research at Gelman Library

The Special Collections Research Center has librarians available to help you locate primary source materials both in Gelman Library at at libraries and musuems throught the Metro Area that may interest you and enhance your research experience. Please contact us for assistance.

Special Collections Research Center
Melvin Gelman Library
2130 H St., NW, Suite 704
Washington, DC 20052
(202) 994-7549
Hours: Monday-Friday, 10 AM - 5 PM

For manuscripts and collections inquiries:

For University Archives inquiries:

GW Libraries • 2130 H Street NW • Washington DC