A primary source is an original object or document -- the raw material or first-hand information, source material that is closest to what is being studied. For example:
Texts of laws and other original documents.
Newspaper reports, by reporters who witnessed an event or who quote people who did.
Speeches, diaries, letters and interviews - what the people involved said or wrote.
Datasets, survey data, such as census or economic statistics.
Photographs, video, or audio that capture an event.
A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may contain pictures, quotes or graphics of primary sources.
The nature of a source is determined by the way a researcher makes use of it. The same item might be considered a primary source in one investigation and a secondary source in another. Whether something is a primary or secondary source often depends upon the topic and its use.
For example, a biology textbook would be considered a secondary source if in the field of biology, since it describes and interprets the science but makes no original contribution to it.
On the other hand, if the topic is science education and the history of textbooks, textbooks could be used a primary sources to look at how they have changed over time. (Healey Library, UMASS)
When you search the library catalog, begin with a simple keyword search to identify one or more relevant resources. Keyword terms used to find primary sources can include:
|- Personal narratives||- Diaries|
|- Correspondence||- Letters|
|- Interviews||- Autobiography|
|- Memoirs||- Maps|
|- Pamphlets||- Speeches|
|- Sources||- Archives|
|- Archival Resources|
Examples of keyword searches might look like:
Once you identify appropriate items, Library of Congress (LC) Subject Headings can be used to narrow your search and link you to similar resources with the same subject heading. Subject headings are found under the "Subjects" or "Full Record" tabs.
The database below may help you find magazine articles during the period that you are studying
We offer a large number of newspaper and news databases, both current and historical. Several ones of particular interest:
Open access web sites provide millions of digitized primary source documents.
This local guide provides assistance in pursuing research using primary sources, especially those we have available here in several formats: paper, republication, microfilm, and electronic. The database below helps identifies primary source repositories around the world.
ArchiveGrid serves as a single point of entry that provides online access to descriptions of archival collections held by thousands of libraries, museums, historical societies, and archives worldwide.