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American Religious History HIS304: Primary Sources

This guide serves as a starting point for researching U.S. Religious History

Library Search Box

Finding Primary Sources

You will get limited results if you try to search for "primary sources" in library databases since the Library of Congress does not use that subject heading.  Try searching these subject headings instead:

  • sources
  • personal narratives
  • documents
  • speeches
  • memoirs
  • diaries
  • documents
  • interviews
  • oral history
  • letters

You will get limited results searching for the word "autobiography" since the Library of Congress does not use that subject heading.  Try searching for "biography" but then look to make sure that the author is also listed as a subject. That is your clue that the person is writing about him or herself, and that is a primary source.

Primary Sources

Research a Specific Person

What are Primary, Secondary & Tertiary Sources?

According to the Library of Congress

"Primary Sources are the raw materials of history, original documents and objects which were created at the time."

"Secondary sources are accounts or interpretations of events created by someone without firsthand experience."

"Tertiary sources present summaries or condensed versions of materials, usually with references back to the primary and/or secondary sources."

Common Examples of Primary Sources Common Examples of Secondary Sources Common Examples of Tertiary Sources

personal narratives

documents

speeches

memoirs 

diaries

interviews

oral history

letters

Biographies

Monographs 

Journal Articles

Dissertations/Theses

Essays

Encyclopedia articles

Dictionaries/encyclopedias

Almanacs

Fact books

Bibliographies

Directories

Guidebooks

Manuals

Handbooks

Textbooks

Indexing and abstracting sources