What Are Primary Sources?
"Primary sources are original records created at the time historical events occurred or well after events in the form of memoirs and oral histories. Primary sources may include letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, speeches, interviews, memoirs, documents produced by government agencies such as Congress or the Office of the President, photographs, audio recordings, moving pictures or video recordings, research data, and objects or artifacts such as works of art or ancient roads, buildings, tools, and weapons. These sources serve as the raw material to interpret the past, and when they are used along with previous interpretations by historians, they provide the resources necessary for historical research."
(American Library Association, Reference and User Services, History Section)
Using OSCAR to Find Primary Sources:
You can use the library online catalog, OSCAR, to find published primary sources or books including primary documents If you are interesting in the writings of a specific individual, just do an author search. If you are looking for primary sources on a specific topic, just enter your keywords and add one of the following words, depending on what you are looking for: correspondence, papers, speeches, memoirs, personal narratives, documents, sources. Here are some examples below of what you can find:
Many primary sources have been digitized and made available on the web. You have to be careful, though, because often the source of the document is not provided. You need to evaluate each web site carefully to determine if it is reliable. In general, you can just add the words "primary sources" to your search to locate such documents on the web. The following sites are examples of what you can find on the web.
Digital Colonial Documents (India)
The Digital Colonial Documents Project (India) is intended to promote study of the rare seminal documents which were influential in the formation of the notions of nation, state and culture during the colonial period. The project makes available rare colonial documents as searchable internet documents:
Oral History Collection
A collection of interviews conducted in the 1970s and 1980s with both Indian and British people describing their experiences of life in British India, the events leading up to independence in 1947 and the early years of independent India and Pakistan.
The Cabinet Papers
"Digitized UK Cabinet Papers for 1915-1977. Papers can be downloaded for free from the National Archives."
If your topic is about the South Asian Diaspora in the U.S., you should explore this archive of primary sources. It documents, preserves and provides access to the history of the South Asian American community. You can browse the archive by themes, subjects, or time periods.
South Asia Open Archive
Contains books, journals, newspapers, census data, magazines, and documents, with particular focus on social & economic history, literature, women & gender, and caste & social structure.
Digital Library of India
Includes books, journals, newspapers and more
Medical History of British India
Digitized by the National Library of Scotland, Consists of official publications varying from short reports to multi-volume histories related to disease, public health and medical research between circa 1850 to 1920.