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POLS 105G: American Constitutional Law: Understanding Primary Sources

This guide will help you find information about the United States Constitution and its amendments, including primary sources.

What are primary sources?

Good question!

Primary sources typically provide direct, firsthand evidence or commentary about any/all of the following:

  • Historical event
  • Person
  • Object
  • Artwork
  • Performance
  • Original Research Study
  • Scientific Experiment

What are some examples of primary sources?

Glad you asked!

Primary sources can include any/all of the following:

  • Eyewitness accounts
  • Newspaper/magazine/other journalism that quotes eyewitnesses
  • Journalism from the time of a historical event
  • Interviews
  • Speeches
  • Journals, letters, diaries
  • Oral histories
  • Government documents
  • Autobiographies
  • Memoirs
  • Artifacts (costumes, clothing, furniture)

What about audiovisual materials?

Yes! Primary sources can definitely be in audiovisual format:

  • Television broadcast news 
  • Feature films
  • Documentaries
  • Radio broadcasts
  • Recorded music
  • Recorded live music peformance
  • Recorded theater performance
  • Recorded dance or other artistic performances
  • Photographs
  • TV or radio interviews


Electronic sources and social media?

Of course!

  • News websites 
  • E-mail and other electronic personal communication
  • Podcasts
  • Blog posts
  • YouTube/streaming videos
  • Facebook posts
  • Twitter feeds
  • Instagram posts
  • Reddit 
  • Digital images
  • Electronic archives
  • Digital library collections
  • Digital government document repositories (ex. National Archives)

Places to look for primary sources

There are many websites that offer online access to collections of primary sources. Please visit the NCC Library's research guide entitled Getting Started with Primary Sources to view the list of websites we recommend.  


Need help with finding sources, searching databases, formatting citations, or deciding on a paper topic? The NCC Librarians are here for you.

Both the Mack Library (Bethlehem) and ESSA Library (Monroe) are open if you'd like to visit in person, or you can chat online with a Librarian no matter where you are! Go to the Library's home page and click on the orange "Ask the Librarian" tab to start chatting. 

To find out when we're open, take a look at the Library's hours.

For more ways to reach us, and answers to our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), click here. You can also send an e-mail question to, or set up a private appointment with a Librarian by using the "Book A Librarian" request form.

We look forward to hearing from you!