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Primary vs Secondary Sources
A primary source is an original, firsthand account or evidence about an event, object, person or work of art. These are factual and are usually created during or close to the event or time period. This can include eyewitness accounts, data, diary, interviews, letters, legal documents, audio and visual recordings, speeches and artwork.
A secondary source is an analysis or interpretation of a primary source. Examples include biographies, literary criticisms and book reviews.
An example in history would be a primary source: Recorded interview with Choctaw American Indian vs a secondary source: Journal article about Native Americans who served in WWII.
Finding Primary Sources in the Catalog
Primary sources enable you to get as close as possible to what actually happened during an historical event or time period.
Primary sources include memoirs, diaries, letters, interviews, and other first-person accounts. Paintings and music created during the time period you are studying are also primary sources.
Searching for primary sources:
- Use the Advanced Search option in the catalog or Onesearch
- Add words like correspondence, memoir, letter, interview, or diaries.
- Many of the databases include primary sources, as well as the websites listed on the database page of this guide.
Best bets for Primary Sources
HathiTrust is a partnership of academic & research institutions, offering a collection of millions of titles digitized from libraries around the world.
Credo Reference* This link opens in a new window
Credo Reference is an online resource of authoritative reference content covering disciplines such as the humanities, science, education, medicine, psychology, nursing, business, religion, technology and more. There are over 650 titles including encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, atlases, and also includes some videos and images. Credo is a good place to start research to find out more about a topic or to get definitions of terms.
HeinOnline* This link opens in a new window
Access to the U.S. Federal Agency Documents, Decisions, and Appeals.
Many of the other databases and websites available will have Primary Sources, do not limit yourself to these!