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Military History: Primary Sources

Video: How to Find Published Primary Sources

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Tips on Searching for Published Primary Sources

Subject headings are standardized phrases (or, "controlled vocabularies" in more technical terms) that are assigned to every book, e-book, and journal article in a library's collection. Although they may seem a little intimidating at first, using subject headings when you search for the best source materials on a given topic can end up saving you a lot of time! Try clicking on the subject headings listed below to get a sense of how they work. When you feel ready, consider using them yourself in future research by copying and pasting them into the library's catalog!

Additionally, if you find a great book or e-book in the library's catalog, click on the "Description" tab in the book's record and scroll to the list of "Subjects." Try clicking on the most relevant subject heading you see to find other great books!


Evaluating Primary Sources

A primary source can tell you a lot about a specific event, person, or period but they must still be checked for relevance and legitimacy.

Consider what your sources reveal and what they don't

  • Purpose and motives of the author
    • Why do you think the author wrote this?
    • Who is the author and what might be his/her place in society?
    • What evidence in the source tells you this?
  • Argument and strategy used to achieve these goals
    • What kind of case is the author trying to make?
    • Is the author credible? Why?
    • Who was the intended audience at the time this was created? Was it meant to be public or private? If so, whom was it meant for? For example, a letter to from a soldier to a mother or wife might mask the atrocities of war. How might the content differ if he wrote to a father or brother instead?
  • Presuppositions and values (both in the text, and our own)
    • What presumptions and preconceptions do you (as a reader) bring to this text? For example, are there parts that you find objectionable, racist, sexist, but readers of that time period might have found acceptable?
    • How might the difference between our modern values and those of the author influence the way you understand the text?
  • Epistemology
    • What does this text tell you without outright telling you?
    • How might this text support an argument you've found in a secondary source?
  • Relate your source to other texts
    • What patterns/ideas regularly appear throughout your sources?
    • What major differences appear in them?
    • Can these be supported by other primary or secondary sources?

Primary Sources in the Norwich Archives

The Norwich University Archives, located on the 5th floor of the Kreitzberg Library, houses a non-circulating collection of primary sources that document the history of Norwich and the accomplishments of its alumni, faculty, staff, and other people associated with the university.

Our reading room is open to the public from 12:00 to 4:00 Monday through Friday or by appointment at other times. Feel free to call, email, or stop by and ask about how our collections can support your research!