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Primary Sources Explained

What are primary sources? These materials can be published or unpublished, and can be found in a variety of formats. They are the artifacts that were produced by someone during or near to the event, person, or time that you are researching. Here are some examples:

  • Diaries & journals
  • Letters
  • Memoirs & autobiographies
  • Government records
  • Newspaper articles
  • Photographs
  • Advertisements
  • Interviews & oral history records
  • Archeological remains

Although it is tempting to consider primary sources to be unbiased testimony on your subject, these artifacts were almost always created with some sort of personal bias or agenda in mind. When studying primary sources, it is important to keep this in mind.

Where to Find Them

So where and how can you find primary sources?

One of the first places to check is within the secondary sources you're probably already reading about your topic. Most quality academic secondary sources include primary references and give you an idea of what to start looking for.

Identifying key people and groups involved in the events you're studying can lead to documents written by them. Government repositories are a treasure trove of resources, as are other archives

The FGCU catalog and databases include many primary sources, as well. Try adding some of these terms to your search.

  • diary, diaries, diar*
  • source, sources, source*
  • narrative, narratives, narrative*
  • account, accounts, account*
  • primary
  • reader

FGCU Archives and Special Collections

Welcome to the University Archives  and Special Collections

The University Archives is the official repository of records for Florida Gulf Coast University and serves as its institutional memory. The Special Collections curates a collection of rare and unique materials documenting the cultural and environmental history of Southwest Florida. Our team works to expand and preserve our collections, develop scholarly resources, and provide global access to the collections through DigitalFGCU.

Our Commitments:

  • Develop archival collections that are equitably representative of all communities residing within Southwest Florida in hopes of spurring crucial conversations and scholarship while contributing to the historical record. 

  • Collect critical resources pertaining to the environmental ecology of Southwest Florida.

  • Foster partnerships through fundraising and donor engagement in an effort to expand access to unique and rare primary resources. 

  • Deliver diverse and inclusive educational programming to FGCU and the Southwest Florida community.

Microfilm & Microfiche

Microfilm are rolls of film and microfiche are flat pieces of film; both contain microphotographs of old newspapers or documents. The FGCU Library has purchased several special collections of these materials and have a machine that is used to read them. You may check out the film or fiche at the front circulation desk and ask for assistance scanning them at the reference desk. 


A Selection of Primary Sources on Microfilm

A Selection of Primary Sources on Microfiche