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Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources

Definitions and examples of primary, secondary and tertiary sources


Many if not all of the library's databases contain primary sources. Please see the examples below. If you need a hand, please Ask a Librarian


Accessible Archives - contains eyewitness accounts of historical events, vivid descriptions of daily life, editorial observations, commerce as seen through advertisements, and genealogical records, including Goedy's Ladys Book and The Liberator. Browse by periodical source or US state, with emphasis on the 1800s.

American Periodicals - includes digitized images of the pages of American magazines and journals that first began publishing between 1741 and 1900.

American Presidency Project - contains documents related to the study of the American Presidency, including public papers, annual messages to Congress, inaugural addresses, radio addresses, state of the union addresses, acceptance speeches, presidential candidates' debates, party platforms, elections data, and an audio/video archive.

American Prison Newspapers, 1800-2020 - hundreds of newspapers published within prisons by incarcerated people over the past 200 years. When complete, the collection will contain newspapers from prisons in every state, representing penal institutions of all kinds, including women-only institutions.

American State Papers, 1789-1838 - primary source material on many aspects of early American history from 1789 to 1838.

America's Historical Newspapers, 1690-1922 - Features cover-to-cover reproductions of hundreds of historic newspapers, providing more than five million pages as fully text-searchable facsimile images.

Archive of Americana - contains books, pamphlets, broadsides, newspapers, government documents and ephemera printed in America over three centuries, including African American Newspapers (1827-1998), American Broadsides & Ephemera (1760-1900), America's Historical Newspapers (1690-1990), Early American Imprints: Series I (1639-1800), Early American Imprints: Series II (1801-1819), Hispanic American Newspapers (1808-1980), American State Papers (1789-1838), and the U.S. Congressional Serial Set.

ArchiveGrid - includes over 5 million records describing archival collections held by thousands of libraries, museums, historical societies, and archives around the world, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more.

Black Abolitionist Papers - This collection searches a unique set of primary sources from African Americans actively involved in the movement to end slavery in the United States between 1830 and 1865.

Black Life in America, 1976-Present - The experience and impact of African Americans as recorded by the news media.

Black Thought and Culture - A collection of approximately 100,000 pages of non-fiction writings by major Black American leaders covering 250 years of history.

Boston Globe, 1872-1992 - This historical newspaper provides genealogists, researchers and scholars with online, easily-searchable first-hand accounts and unparalleled coverage of the politics, society and events of the time.

Campus Art Collections - Contains all Connecticut College art collections including the Artists' Books, Campus Art Collection, Chu-Griffis Collection of Asian Art, Wetmore Print Collection, and outdoor sculpture collection. Browse the collections by artist, time period, culture, medium, and subjects.

Congressional Hearings - Coverage includes more than 75,000 hearings and more than 17.8 million pages from the 50th (1889) Congress through the 114th (2017) Congress.

Congressional Record - The Congressional Record, first published in 1873, is essentially the complete printed chronicle of debates, proceedings and speeches of the United States Congress.

Connecticut Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps - Over 6,500 maps in 470 atlases for Connecticut towns ranging from 1880 to 1970 at 1:600 scale. These highly detailed maps provide building, outbuilding, and property footprints, labeled streets, addresses, and information about building materials and construction features for urban and residential areas of Connecticut.

Early English Books Online (EEBO) - from the first book published in English through the age of Spenser and Shakespeare, this collection now contains about 100,000 titles.

Eighteenth Century Collections Online - This database includes books, pamphlets, essays, broadsides and more. It is based on the English Short Title Catalogue: works published in the UK during the 18th century plus thousands from elsewhere. It is primarily in English.

GenderWatch - A repository of important historical perspectives dating back to 1970 on the evolution of the women's movement, men's studies, the transgendered community and the changes in gender roles over the years.

HathiTrust Digital Library - Provides digital preservation of print materials with full download access to PDFs of nearly 7 million digitized items that are in the public domain, or that have been cleared for access through Creative Commons licensing. 

HeinOnline Academic - Contains comprehensive coverage from inception of both U.S. statutory materials, U.S. Congressional Documents and the US Congressional Serial Set and more than 2,600 scholarly journals, all of the world's constitutions, all U.S. treaties, collections of classic treatises and presidential documents, and access to the full text of state and federal case law powered by Fastcase. Includes special collections on Criminal Justice, History, Foreign Relations, Religion and the Law and Women and the Law.

Historical Newspapers - a digital archive of 7 of the leading newspapers in North America, including the Christian Science Monitor, Hartford Courant, Los Angeles Time, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post.

History of Feminism - Covers the subject of feminism over the long nineteenth century (1776–1928). It contains an extensive range of primary and secondary resources, including full books, selected chapters, and journal articles, as well as new thematic essays.

History Vault - Access digitized letters, papers, photographs, scrapbooks, financial records, diaries, and many more primary source materials taken from the University Publications of America (UPA) Collections. Collections includeCivil Rights and the Black Freedom Struggle,Southern Life, Slavery, and the Civil War, American Indians and the American West and Women's Studies.

JSTOR - Provides access to more than 12 million academic journal articles, academic ebooks, and primary sources in 75 disciplines.

LGBT Magazine Archive - A searchable archive of major periodicals devoted to LGBT+ interests, dating from the 1950s through to recent years.

LGBT Thought and Culture - Contains books, periodicals, and archival materials documenting LGBT political, social and cultural movements throughout the twentieth century and into the present day.

Life Magazine Archive - Full coverage of Life Magazine going back to Issue 1 in 1936.

Student Newspapers - The students of Connecticut College began printing a newspaper in 1915. Contains a wealth of information about student life, campus events, and the broader community over more than a century.

U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1993 - contents come not only from the U.S. Congress, but also include key Executive Department publications. Beginning with Volume 1 in the first session of the 15th Congress (1817), the Readex U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1993 contains all publications from the 15th through the 103rd Congresses. Also included: the American State Papers, 1789-1838, 1st-14th Congresses.

U.S. Congressional Serial Set Maps - more than 50,000 maps in the U.S. Congressional Serial Set range from the great atlases to small individual maps clarifying very specific land questions, to the great triangulation surveys.