Primary sources are materials created at the time or specific era or event that is being researched or studied. These sources are directly related to a subject or topic by time or by a person's or material's direct involvement from the era. A primary source provides a first-hand account about a person or an event because they were written or made in the time period they are from, but can also include later recollections from a participant involved in an event (i.e. autobiographies, interviews, oral histories). The Library of Congress and National Archives provide many digitized versions of primary sources related to some of the examples found below. You may also find a few primary sources as well in the Local History room of the Library.*
*Note: To use the Local History room, please check for available hours and appointment times.
Below are some links to a few websites students may find useful in locating primary sources.
Secondary sources provide useful and important background information about a topic. These sources are not written or made in the time period they are describing. Secondary sources can include books or articles published by an author or writer who makes an interpretation about an event or topic based upon other primary sources. Secondary sources include most books, encyclopedias, documentaries, websites, and academic journals. The works cited pages, footnotes, and bibliographies of secondary sources can lead you to primary sources as well. You can use the library catalog, databases, and reference books to find secondary sources. Books found in the catalog that you can check out are located downstairs in the STACKS. Reference books are located upstairs and cannot be checked out.
*Note: Reference books and encyclopedias can refer you back to primary sources. Reference books and encyclopedias can also be considered tertiary sources. Please refer to your professor on whether or not you can use these sources in your research.
Below are some links to a few websites students may find useful in locating secondary sources outside of the library catalog and databases.
Tertiary sources compile information from primary and secondary sources. These are sources that index, abstract, organize or compile other sources together. Some sources can be considered both secondary and/or tertiary (e.g. encyclopedias, some dictionaries, textbooks, bibliographies). A source like one of the listed examples is considered tertiary instead of secondary when the main purpose of the source is to list, summarize, or reuse ideas/information instead of using primary sources and providing detailed background information to make an interpretation about an event/person/topic.
*Note: Can be considered secondary sources, depending upon the information presented in these sources. Ask your professor if you are allowed to use these sources in your research.