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Primary Sources

This guide is to help users to identify, locate, and use primary sources in their research.

Locating Sources @ Bobst

The library collections at NYU contain:Pigeon sitting on top of stone lion's head in front of the New York Public Library.

  • manuscripts and other archival materials,
  • correspondence and diaries,
  • photographs, films, artwork, music,
  • posters and prints,
  • government documents and data sets,
  • ephemera and artifacts,
  • serials and books,
  • maps and other resources

Visit the NYU Libraries website and the websites of the Special Collections for details on library holdings.

Search BobCat

To find cataloged materials at NYU and consortium libraries.

Search finding aids

To find processed archival collections.  You may search across collections or search each of the following library's archival finding aids individually.


Use the Databases by Subject page to find sources on your topic in online databases.

Image:  "Pigeon on New York Public Library" / By Ben Asen, 2001. New York Public Library.  Catalog No. MssArc RG10 592.  Digital ID: ps_ar_65.

Archival Sources Beyond NYU

See the Archives Beyond Bobst research guide for tips on finding materials in archival repositories around the world.

Using Archives & Manuscripts

Consult the Using Archives & Manuscripts research guide for additional information and assistance.

Finding Primary Sources

Library Catalogs

  • Search BobCat to find cataloged materials at NYU and consortium libraries.
  • Search WorldCat to find cataloged collections at thousands of libraries worldwide.

Finding Aids Search

  • Search finding aids to find archival collections on your topic in NYU and consortium libraries.

Secondary & Reference Sources

Make use of secondary and reference sources to help you find primary materials. 

Resources include:

  • Bibliographies
  • Guides to the Literature in your subject
  • Periodical Indexes
  • Biographical Resources
  • Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, Handbooks
  • Secondary Sources (mine the text, footnotes, bibliographies, and acknowledgements for ideas)

Search Tips

Every discipline has its own universe of primary sources. Ask questions to focus your search. For example, you might ask:

  • Who would have produced sources relative to your topic?
  • What types of sources might exist?
  • When would they have been produced?
  • Where?
  • Why and for whom?

Be Creative

Use images, oral histories, maps, statistics, diaries, personal papers, organizational records, government documents, material culture, film, alternative press, pamphlets, posters, printed ephemera, and literature in your research.  Use published and unpublished, printed and digital sources.  

Consult your subject librarian for assistance.