Primary Sources: Finding Primary Sources at the USMA Library

This Guide explains what primary sources are, why they are important, and how to find and use them.

Primary Sources in the USMA Library Circulating Collection

The USMA Library Circulating Collection provides access to countless Primary Sources, both in our print collection and through our subscription databases. Remember that when you are looking for primary sources, you're looking for documents that supply firsthand or original information: a treaty, the text of a law, a transcript of a trial or hearing, the diary or memoir written by someone involved in your events, etc. One the right, you'll find some tips and examples for searching the USMA library for primary source materials, and below, you'll see a selected list of links to databases that contain primary source materials on many different topics.

Primary Source Databases

Try these databases when looking for primary source materials for your research:

Starting your USMA Library Catalog Search

When searching for a Primary Source, brainstorm some keywords based on what you already know, being as broad as possible. Try using the names of people involved in your event, groups who might have been influential, or the name of the event itself.

For example, let’s suppose you’re interested in writing about operations on Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg. Some possible names or keywords to try are: Chamberlin, Joshua (search as "Author"), and 20th Maine,’ '15th Alabama,' or 'Little Round Top' (in quotes, as "Keyword"). You can also search for types of resources by utilizing the "Keyword" search command; try 'personal narratives Gettysburg' or 'Regimental Histories Gettysburg' without quotes.