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Washington Area Writers: Getting Started

This guide will help you find published and unpublished materials written and collected by local authors.

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Using Special Collections

Primary Sources: What? Where? Why?


What are primary sources?

Letters, diaries, ledgers, journals, maps, video, film, photographs, artifacts, pamphlets, books, manuscripts, and newsletters, and poems. Anything that provides direct evidence or an individual viewpoint from a participant or observer concerning the period or subject under investigation. They are the raw, un-interpreted documents created during the period or by the person that is being studied.  They are resourcess that speak directly to the viewer, the reader, and the listener without explanatory context. Primary sources offer an inside view of a particular event.

Why should I use these documents?

Challenging: You become the scholar. You read and analyze letters from the 1840s.

Rewarding: These documents will often evoke a sense of time and place.

Professors will love you: Original research is always impressive.

How will I find these documents?

Check the catalog for your topic (if it's here the location will be Special Collections). Check out our website with links to primary materials for various subjects. Or better yet make an appointment and speak with a librarian in Special Collections x7459,

Search Tip!

To limit your search to books in Special Collections go to the catalog main page, choose the "More Limits" box on the middle right and in location scroll to GW: GELMAN Special Collections.

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Jennifer King
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Gelman Library, Special Collections Research Center, (Suite 704) 202-994-0628
GW Libraries • 2130 H Street NW • Washington DC