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What are Primary Sources?

Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. 

  • ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS such as diaries, speeches, letters
  • CREATIVE WORKS such as poetry, music, art 
  • RELICS OR ARTIFACTS such as pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings

What about Science?  In the sciences, a primary source is the published result of experimental or observational research.

Primary sources in the library catalog

Primary sources in literature are the literary works themselves. If you have a particular author, poet, or playwright in mind, doing an author search in the Five Colleges library catalog is usually the quickest way to discover works created by that author. You can also search for primary sources held in collections outside the Five Colleges by doing an author search in WorldCat.

If you don't have a particular author in mind, you can use the catalog's Advanced Search form to search by genre. Use one of the "Keywords anywhere" drop down menus to select "genre" then enter the name of a genre (e.g., fantasy, mystery, science fiction, young adult, etc.) in the adjacent box.  Use the Format menu to select "Books" then click "Go" to run your search (see screen shot of example genre search below):

Example of genre search

Electronic collections of primary sources - all genres

At Mount Holyoke
On the Web

Finding short stories in periodicals and collections

Finding poems

Finding poems in collections and periodicals
On the Web

Finding plays

Springshare's information on Accessibility in Libguides - - MHC Accessibility Barriers Form