YOUR LEATHERBY LIBRARIES
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SOURCES
What are Primary Sources?
According to the UC Berkeley Library Research Guide: "Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during an historical event or time period."
The UCLA Institute on Primary Resources states that "primary resources provide firsthand evidence of historical events. They are generally unpublished materials, such as manuscripts, photographs, maps, artifacts, audio and video recordings, oral histories, postcards, and posters. In some instances, published materials can also be viewed as primary materials for the period in which they were written."
The Ohio Historical Society defines primary sources as a "source created by people who actually saw or participated in an event and recorded that event or their reactions to it immediately after the event."
One can view a primary source as a firsthand account of an event. It is important to note that primary sources "present information in its original form, neither interpreted nor condensed nor evaluated by other writers" (James Cook University). As a researcher, using primary sources offers you the unique opportunity to perform original analysis and formulate your own theory or opinion. Primary sources can also come in any form.
How to find Primary Sources at the Leatherby Libraries:
Search the Leatherby Libraries Catalog or WorldCat by:
AUTHOR: search by an author's name to find materials written by that person.
SUBJECT: the term "Sources" is the official subject sub-heading used in both the Library catalog and WorldCat for primary sources.
Example: the subject heading "Reformation - Sources" indicates works that contain primary sources on the Reformation.
KEYWORD: the following terms often lead to primary sources: autobiography, correspondence, diaries, interviews, letters, and personal narratives.
The Frank Mt. Pleasant Library of Special Collections and Archives, located in Leatherby Libraries, contains many official documents on the university's past. Special Collections also include primary source materials on local history.
Primary Sources on the Web
Here are several important digitized collections of primary sources on the Web:
Library of Congress American Memory Collection
UC Berkeley Digital Library
Early California Population Project (ECPP)
New York Public Library Digital Collection
National Archives and Records Administration
Making of America Project
Smithsonian Institution Libraries: Digital Collections
What are Secondary Sources?
Bowling Green State University, Library
"Secondary sources, on the other hand, offer an analysis or a restatement of primary sources. They often attempt to describe or explain primary sources. Some secondary sources not only analyze primary sources, but use them to argue a contention or to persuade the reader to hold a certain opinion."
Ohio Historical Society
"Source created by someone either not present when the event took place or removed by time from the event."
UCLA Institute on Primary Resources
"A secondary source is a work that interprets or analyzes an historical event or phenomenon."
You can often find primary sources listed in the footnotes and bibliographies of secondary books and articles.
One can view a secondary source as a summary, interpretation, or analysis of the primary source. They often attempt to describe or explain primary sources. Examples of secondary sources include textbooks and encyclopedias.
|Original works of literature, art, music
||Criticism of original work
|Newspaper accounts of events, by someone on the scene
|Diary, autobiography, letters, oral testimony
|Historical documents, such as laws or treaties
|Television show or motion picture
|Raw data from questionnaires
||Social science article based on another's data
||Scientific article based on another's experiment
Please ask the librarian at the reference desk if you need further help.
Bowling Green State University: Library instruction: Primary vs. secondary sources.
James Cook University: Primary, secondary, & tertiary sources.
Ohio Historical Society: Primary sources.
Sims Memorial Library: Primary vs. secondary sources.
UC Berkeley Library: Library research: Finding primary sources.
UCLA Institute on Primary Resources: What are primary resources?
University Library, California State University, Stanislaus: Primary vs. secondary sources.