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Research Guides

Teaching Online with Primary Sources

Teaching Online with Primary Sources

A resource for those who wish to teach online using special collections and archival materials.

This guide is primarily intended as a resource for Texas A&M University teaching Faculty, Graduate Assistants and for anyone who wishes to introduce their students to online primary sources and to develop their students' primary source literacy skills in an online environment. Curators and archivists from Cushing Memorial Library & Archives can provide resources, exercises, demos, and discussions to prepare your students to use special collections and archives online.

We're here to help. To get started, please contact Public Services at

In the future, when restrictions due to COVID-19 have lifted, there will be opportunities for in-person instruction using the Mayo-Thomas Room.

What are Primary Sources?

Primary sources (a.k.a. "original documents") are very important to historical research.  These are materials created at the time of the events under investigation.  These sources are available at the TAMU Libraries in a wide variety of formats including print, microfilm, and digital.  Examples of primary sources may include (but are NOT limited to):

  • diaries,
  • manuscripts,
  • correspondence,
  • newspapers and magazines from the time period (including the advertisements), 
  • published sermons,
  • business reports,
  • maps,
  • photographs,  
  • government materials including legislative testimony and votes, reports, hearings, and court opinions.

More information on finding and evaluating primary sources

Key Definitions

Special collections materials are information objects, such as rare books or manuscripts, which may be considered “rare” due to expense, scarcity or associations (e.g. people that used or owned the material). We have preserved them for their enduring cultural, historical or evidentiary value.

Archival material consists of historical records or information objects selected for preservation due to their enduring cultural, historical or evidentiary value. These items are often unique.