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Jewish and Israel Studies

What is a primary source?

     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 scholars, they provide the resources necessary for scholarly research.

     University of Maryland Libraries own many primary materials in all kinds of formats, including books, microforms and electronic collections.  You can find many primary sources in our general collections, i.e. in our open stacks. In addition, the University of Maryland houses rich Special Collections, which include archival and manuscript collections, government documents, digital collections, maps, and rare books.  Many of these materials pertain to Jewish and Israel studies.  We encourage you to look for all of these resources in the Catalog (see the left column on this page for some tips on how to search).

Finding primary sources in the Catalog

In great many cases it is possible to identify primary sources in the Catalog  by adding to your search words terms such as "archival resources," "archives," "sources," "manuscripts," "correspondence," "diaries," "personal narratives," etc. Another way is to find writings by famous and not so famous people, like for example, important political, cultural, or religious leaders.


  • israel sources (search under "subject words")
  • jews diaries russia (search under basic "word/s anywhere")
  • rabbis correspondence (search under basic "word/s anywhere")
  • Goldman, Emma (search under "author beginning with....")

Another strategy is to use the advanced search from the yellow tool bar.  Specify years of your research interest to limit your search to materials contemporary with the event or phenomenon you are interested in. In more specific searches it often helps to combine the dates search with subject searching.


  • jews russia (subject), (year/s) 1900 to 1920

Finally University of Maryland Libraries own huge microform collections, many of which would be considered primary sources. Again in the advanced search specify your topic and limit it by format "microform." By the way this method could be used in finding periodicals, non-print materials, reference sources, and other types of format.


  • jews england, (format) Microform

Of course you can mix and match the above approaches as you see fit.

    Some UM Libraries departments of specialized collections