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Research Guides: Library Sources for History Majors

Special Databases

Primary and Secondary Sources

A primary source is:

  • An account by an eyewitness or the first recorder of an event, in written or other form, including microform and electronic reproduction. Examples are diaries, letters, minutes of meetings, news footage, newspaper articles.
  • Data obtained through original research, statistical compilations or legal requirements. Examples are reports of scientific experiments, U.S. census records, public records.
  • Creative works such as poetry, music, or art.
  • Artifacts such as stone points, pottery, furniture, and buildings.

Secondary sources are works that interpret the primary data, such as a book about eating disorders, a journal article about the role of tobacco in the colonial economy, or a critical review of a play.

Examples of Primary Sources:

See also Research Guides: Newspapers for much more information about finding and using newspaper sources, Curriculum Resources: History/Social Sciences for links to rich history websites, and Research Guides: Government for information on locating government publications including legal resources.