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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Primary Sources: Primary source guides

A guide to finding and using primary sources

General Resources

Famous Trials  By Professor Douglas O. Linder

John Jay Library Criminal Trial Transcript Collection

John Jay Library Criminal Trial Pamphlet Collection (info on)

John Jay Library Special Collections Guide

John Jay Library Digital Collections

Research Guide on NYC Criminal Court records

Research Guide on Primary Sources

Research Guide on Humanities and Justice Studies

An introduction to Archival Research

October 2018 National Archives "Today's Document" Citizen Archivists takeover (student participation encouraged).

Online guides

Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy From the Society of American Archivists/Rare Book and Manuscripts Society

The resources listed below are guides to help you understand what primary sources are, how to find them and how to use them. These resources are freely available web sites that have been evaluated as trustworthy and reputable by John Jay librarians. For help on evaluating information on the web, see this guide.

New York Public Library

The archives portal at NYPL offers a great introduction to the importance and use of primary sources.

Internet Ancient History Sourcebook

This site focuses on online texts, which, for the most part, means public domain texts translated more than 75 years ago. In many cases it is these older translations which are used in commercially available sourcebooks.

American Library Association, Reference and User Services Association

An easy-to-navigate site that provides links to other primary source guides as well as books on primary sources. Includes information on how to find text and non-text sources such as photographs, using search engines, subject headings and history web sites to find primary sources. Contains excellent evaluation section and information on how to cite primary source web sites. Provides useful examples and links to several primary source collections.

Library of Congress - American Memory

The interface of The Learning Page feature is geared toward teachers, but this site provides a user-friendly resource for the basics of primary sources. The American Memory digital collection contains millions of primary source items.

New York University Libraries

NYU Libraries provides an easy-to-use guide, organized by documents, visual materials, audio materials and artifacts. Within each section there are definitions and links to examples. The site also has information on evaluating and citing sources and a few subject-specific guides (e.g. history, performing arts, Africana studies). While some of the latter link to NYU-specific resources, it is still a useful resource for learning about appropriate types of primary sources.

University of California, Berkeley Library

“Finding Historical Primary Sources” shows UC Berkeley students how to use their own library’s catalogs and databases to find primary sources, but the same search strategies can be used in any library. Includes definition of both primary and secondary sources, ways to think about what type of source is best to use, and useful search examples throughout.

 Univerisity of California, Los Angeles Institute on Primary Resources

While the project is geared toward K-12 education, the “about primary resources” section is useful for definitions and basic information, and the “additional resources” section provides a few primary source outlets.

Books about using primary sources

(Note section location of the book, indicated before call number, e.g. stacks or reference. Each title below is linked to the book's record in the library catalog.)

Farge, A., Scott-Railton, T., & Davis, N. Z. (2013). The allure of the archives. New Haven: Yale University Press.    

Howell, M. C., & Prevenier, W. (2001). From reliable sources: An introduction to historical methods. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press. (Stacks / call number: D16 .H713)

Presnell, J. L. (2007). The information-literate historian: A guide to research for history students. New York: Oxford University Press. (Stacks / call number: D16.2 .P715)

Subject-specific primary sources

Finkenbine, R. E. (1997). Sources of the African-American past: Primary sources in American history. New York: Longman. (Reference / call number: E184.6 .F56)

Hanes, S. M., & Hermsen, S. (2005). Crime and punishment in America. Primary sources. Crime and punishment in America reference library. Detroit: Thomson Gale. (Reference / call number: HV6779 .H35)


Book Locations

Books in the Library are organized according to location and call number.


Reference  (2nd floor, top level)

Reference Law (2nd floor, south side of building near bound periodicals)

Stacks  (books that circulate, see below)

Call number beginning with A-H are on the 2nd floor

Call number beginning with J-Z are on the 1st floor

Reserve (1st floor, Reserve desk)

Call number:

Every book in the Library has a unique call number

Check out How to read a call number to find out how call numbers work

Books are in ALPHANUMERICAL order (alphabetical by letter then by number)

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