How to Find Primary Resources

This guide will provide you with several resources to assist in your search for primary documents. The tutorial's main focus is locating primary documents for history topics. Primary sources are original sources. Primary sources can include print copies of diaries or maps, but most primary documents are housed outside of standard print library collections. They include first-person accounts of events, speeches, interviews, artifacts, statistics, and government documents. For a complete definition and examples of primary sources, please visit Steely Library's tutorial: Primary and Secondary Sources.

Steely Library Databases

Click here to learn about the various databases NKU students can connect to and use to search for newspaper articles, speeches, and eyewitness accounts of events back to the 1700s.


Click here to see a few searching techniques in the library's catalog, NKUIRE, to retrieve diaries and personal narratives held in Steely Library. Also learn how you can search and retrieve personal narratives from other libraries.

*Note: Diaries found using NKUIRE will not be original manuscripts. These will be published diaries and may include some interpretation from the publisher.


Many universities, historical societies, and libraries have digitized historical collections. Learn about some of these websites and how to effectively search Google for these resources.

Construction at Steely
1974: Building Steely Library

Steely Library Special Collections & Archives

Located on the first floor of Steely Library, Special Collections & Archives houses the University Archives as well as documents and artifacts related to Kentucky and Appalachian history and culture, the Civil War, the Ohio River, and other subjects.

Steely Library phone number:  859.572.5457