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Course: History 1, Middle East (2024): Finding primary sources

What is a primary source and why use them?

Primary sources are the raw materials of history — original documents and objects which were created at the time of the event you are studying. They are different from secondary sources, accounts or interpretations of events created by someone without firsthand experience. Primary sources are created:

  • - by someone who was present at or involved in the event
  • - at the time of the event OR later in a memoir

Remember - a primary source is not necessarily your main source.

For more information on primary sources and their uses refer to the History 1 Research Canvas Module 3: Working with Primary Sources page.

Finding primary sources - from databases

Here are some options for finding primary sources online through our databases.

Finding primary sources - from online books

These are books that you can access online through one of our databases or through a website. These books are fairly general, but there are many more that are more specific that are not included in this list. If you can't see what you're looking for, ask a librarian.

Finding primary sources - online

Finding primary sources - in print

We have several books with primary sources from the modern Middle East in the library which are not available online. However, you can look through the tables of content and, if you see something that look interesting, ask a librarian who will send you a copy. 

Examples of primary sources

  • Letters
  • Diaries
  • Newspapers and magazines (be sure these fit the definition of a primary source)
  • Manifestos
  • Speeches
  • Audio recordings
  • Films or videos
  • Photographs or blueprints
  • Memoirs or journals
  • Government documents
  • Maps
  • Artifacts, such as objects used at the time.
  • Exhibition brochures (be sure these are of the right time period)

Citing your primary source

Use Noodletools to cite all your sources. As with your Mexico paper, start a new project to keep track of all your sources. You will be using Advanced Chicago/Turabian again.

If your source is one of many collected together in a book:

  • Use the 'Anthology/Collection' citation, under the Nonperiodicals heading.
  • Once you have clicked on that, choose the type of source you're citing, from the next drop down menu.
  • You will cite both the source itself and the book it's in - for example, Sources in the History of the Modern Middle East.

Here is an example of a Chicago style citation from the anthology Sources in the History of the Modern Middle East:

Hussein, Saddam. "The Revolution and the Woman." Speech, 1979. In Sources in the History of the Modern Middle East, edited by Akram Fouad Khater, 211-12. 2nd ed. Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage, 2011.