A primary source is any artifact, media, or text created at the time under study that could serve as original evidence for an event or topic. Primary sources vary by discipline, but this guide is intended for any researcher who needs to gather evidence about the past, across a variety of formats, geographical regions, and time periods.
Note: This guide is mostly composed of proprietary databases to which the library subscribes. Follow the link for Tips for Finding Primary Sources to develop strategies for finding sources beyond UTC Library resources. See the History Research Guide for the best resources for secondary sources.
If you need help using this guide or have any questions, stop by the Commons Desk on the second floor of the library, or visit our Research Help page for other ways to seek research assistance.
Digitized Archival Collections
Digitized materials originally organized and held in archives, museums, or other cultural institutions.
Sources produced as a function of governmental operations.
Historical Printed Materials
Digitized collections of books, images, and texts that were intended for reproduction or broader dissemination.
Resources for studying the history of UTC, Chattanooga, and Tennessee.
Newspapers and Periodicals
Digitized collections of historical newspapers, magazines, and other publications produced at regular intervals.
Tips for Finding Primary Sources
Learn the best ways to search for primary source materials.
Use the Advanced Search in the library's Quick Search to find edited collections of primary sources.
Books with primary sources are often cataloged with relevant subject headings or subheadings. If you are looking for a specific kind of primary source, you can use one of the following terms, but if you are looking for any primary source on your topic, separating each term with 'OR' will tell the Quick Search to look for any of those types of sources.
Note: Most databases do not require capitalization for boolean operators such as 'or', but the Quick Search does. Make sure you put 'OR' in all caps when using this search function.
Archives, special collections, museums, and other institutions are increasingly digitizing their materials and making them freely available online. The most commonly used phrases on sites such as these are 'digital collections', 'primary sources', and 'papers'. A simple search in something like DuckDuckGo or Google for keywords related to your topic and one of those phrases will often lead you to websites with digitized primary sources.
Primary sources are not always easily discoverable by search engines, so you might have to think about what institution or organization would have stored and preserved the sources. Questions you might consider:
Searching the internet for African American museum would lead you to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, which has extensive digital collections.
Michigan State University and Bowling Green State University are well known for their comic book collections, whereas the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas Austin is renowned for its contemporary literature collection.
It can also be helpful to think of what kind of organization might provide access to materials on your topic and perform a site search in the relevant domains. Search engines such as DuckDuckGo or Google allow you to add site:[insert site or domain] to any search, and your results will be restricted to sources in that site or domain.
A search for Latinx digital collections site:.org will bring back results from organizations collecting and providing access to these materials.
If you have already found secondary sources on your topic, it can be helpful to see what primary sources the author used in their own research. There are a few different places where you will find this information: