Student Research File

"It is my opinion that the only accurate source of information on which to make a proper historical assessment of the performances of past Presidents is in the Presidential files. This is why I think these documents not only ought to be preserved but should be placed and arranged so that they can be used." 
Harry S. Truman, Mr. Citizen, 1960.


The Student Research File is composed of copies of what historians call primary sources-memoranda, letters, reports, speeches, notes, cables, and published material (newspaper and magazine articles and other printed items) that are either contemporaneous with the events they describe or which are based on personal memories of the events described. Primary source materials are usually (excepting retrospective primary sources such as memoirs and oral history interviews) records of personal and organizational activity that were created as the activity was occurring. They are the essential evidence for the day's events when the day itself is long gone and swallowed up into the past. They are always fragmentary in character, documenting individually only small pieces of past activity, and they are always challenging to use. They are the best things we have-together with evidence of material culture-to allow us to recover and understand the past.

The Student Research File is currently divided into 55 topics, which are listed below. Each topic is focused on an event or issue from Truman's life and presidency and contains between 500 and 1500 pages of documents selected from the Truman Library's collections by its archives staff. The selected documents do not represent all of the library's holdings on any topic, but the archives staff believes them to be the most interesting and informative documents on these topics. Students may carry their research beyond the Student Research File into the library's entire manuscript collection if they wish, and perhaps as well into the collections of other archival repositories and libraries.

Accessing the Print Student Research File

Three institutions in the greater Kansas City area hold complete sets of the Student Research File:

Truman Presidential Museum & Library can accommodate individuals anytime during normal research room hours. Class groups of up to 50 students can also be accommodated; teachers should call the library at least two weeks prior to a visit (816-268-8272).

University of Missouri-Kansas City can accommodate individuals at the Miller Nichols Library Special Collections Department during normal hours and by appointment. Class groups of up to 40 students can also be accommodated; teachers should call the Department at least four weeks prior to a visit (816-235-5712).

Graceland University, Independence Campus can accommodate individuals during normal hours. Class groups of up to 25 students can also be accommodated; teachers should call at least a week prior to a visit (816-833-0524), ask for the staff of the Center for the Study of the Korean War).

Thirty-five of the topics from the Student Research File have been published in book form under the title, Documentary History of the Truman Presidency (Dennis Merrill, editor, University Publications of America). The volumes include most of the documents from the original Student Research File topics-all except published materials such as newspapers and magazine articles.

Complete List of Topics

The Student Research File topics are listed below. They are arranged in an approximate chronological order.