Skip to main content

Military & Strategic Studies: Primary Sources

Guide to military, security and strategic resources

Primary Sources

Primary sources provide firsthand accounts or direct evidence to the event, person, object or place.  These sources are created by participants or witnesses of the event at the time it occurred or their experiences recorded later in the form of an autobiography, memoir or oral history.  Many primary sources are available through government organizations and departments.

Secondary sources, however, provide a more critical analysis of an event, person or object that often interpret primary sources and refer to secondary sources created by other authors to help formulate a less personal account.

"Finding Books" tab will help you discover primary sources, i.e. firsthand accounts of people directly involved in or who had witnessed an event.  In addition, tabs for journal articles, newspaper articles, research reports, statistics, and websites, provide many firsthand or authoritative information.  This page identifies digital collections that contain primary source materials and types of primary sources (listed on right side).

Primary Source Documents in Reference Works

Primary Sources in Library Databases: General Purpose

Primary Sources in Library Databases: Conflict and Security

Primary Sources from the Internet

Citing Primary Sources

Searching for Primary Sources

LC Subject Headings
Search Terms to help identify Primary Sources 
- autobiographies
- correspondence
- diaries
- interviews
- law and legislation
- letters
- manuscripts
- memoirs
- papers
- personal narratives
- pamphlets
- sources
- speeches
- statistics
- treaties

Types of Primary Sources

correspondence, diaries,
letters, manuscripts,
memoirs, pamphlets,
papers, personal narratives,
sources, speeches, statistics
Creative Works
art works, architecture, films,
maps, music recordings,
paintings, photographs,
poems, sculptures, etc.
Government Documents
law and legislation, treaties
Journal/Newspaper Articles
witnessed reported events,
reports that quote witnesses
News Sources
broadcast transcripts
Oral Histories and Culture
audio/video recordings,
folklore, storytelling,
Research Data
datasets, original research,
statistics, surveys

Types of Secondary Sources

based on primary works,
academic research on a subject,
analytical, interpretive,
biographies, dissertations

Journal/Newspaper Articles
non-witnessed reported events,
scholarly research on topics,
critiques or essays

Research Data
analysis of data,
interpretation of data

"The appearance of hyperlinks on this web site along with the views and opinions of authors, products or services contained therein does not constitute endorsement by the U.S. Government, DoD, USAF, or USAFA. These sites are used solely for authorized activities and information that supports the organization's mission. The U.S. Air Force and the Air Force Academy do not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these link locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DoD Web Site."

U.S. Air Force Academy, USAFA, CO 80840, (719) 333-2590 DSN: 333-2590, Updated 8 Apr 2018
Privacy & Security Notice / External Link Disclaimer / Contact USAFA Webmaster / Accessibility Section 508/ FOIA