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What is a source? (definitions)

"Primary sources originate in the time period that historians are studying."

William Kelleher Storey, Writing History: A Guide for Students (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 18.

"Primary sources orginate in the time period that historians are studying. They vary a great deal. They may include personal memiors, goverment documents, transcriptions of legal proceedings, oral histories and traditions, archeaeological and biological evidence, visual sources like paintings and photographs."

William Kelleher Storey, Writing History: A Guide for Students (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 18.

"Secondary works reflect on earlier times. Typically, they are books and articles by writers who are interpreting the events and primary sources [and other secondary sources] you are studying."

William Kelleher Storey, Writing History: A Guide for Students (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 18.

"Reference material that summarizes and condenses the information found in primary and secondary sources."  (e.g., frequently almanacs, bibliographies, chronologies; dictionaries and encyclopedias, textbooks)

Christine Bombaro, Finding History: Research Methods and Resources for Students and Scholars (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2012), p. 57

 

 

"In some cases the distinction between primary and secondary source works may be confusing. If you are writing about historical writers, you may find yourself using a secondary work as a primary source. For example, during the 1840s and 1850s Thomas Macaulay wrote The History of England. His book describes the origins and outcome of England's Glorious Revolution of 1688. For historians of seventeenth-century England, Macaulay's book is a classic secondary work. But for historians of Victorian Britian [c. 1837-1901], The History of England is a rich primary source that tells historians a great deal about intellectual life in the 1840s and 1850s."

William Kelleher Storey, Writing History: A Guide for Students (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 19.

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More on Historical Sources

"Letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, speeches, interviews, memoirs, documents produced by government agencies such as Congress or the Office of the President, photographs, audio recordings, moving pictures or video recordings, research data, and objects or artifacts such as works of art or ancient roads, buildings, tools, and weapons."

"Using Primary Sources on the Web," Instruction and Research Services Committee, History Section, Reference and User Services Association, American Library Association, 2013.

Using Primary Sources on the Web

Instruction and Research Services Committee, History Section, Reference and User Services Association, American Library Association, 2013.

Using Primary Sources in Your Research

Online version of a 2008 exhibit in the Special Collections department of the Michigan State University Libraries. It introduces the many types of primary sources used by researchers, with examples from Special Collections.

Sources Compared

A table from the University of Maryland Libraries of disciplinary examples of primary, secondary, and teritary sources compared.

When seaching in SearchPlus, use the faceted date field to limit your search to a date range. NB: do not use the slider, as that only displays the date range for the viewable results (around 200---the results returned list may be larger in number).

Enter the dates you wish to search in the boxes belows (SearchPlus will automatically refresh for each date); you can enter whole year (e.g., 1991), or month/day/year (1/2/1991).

Historical Abstracts

Provides access to historical articles for the Modern period (1450 to the present) for Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and Latin America.

America History and Life

Provides access to articles, book reviews, and dissertations in American and Canadian history.

JSTOR

Searchable database of the full text of journals in anthropology, Asian Studies, ecology, economics, education, finance, history, literature, mathematics, philosophy, political science, population studies, and sociology.

Oxford Bibliographies

Combining the features of an annotated bibliography and a high-level encyclopedia, Oxford Bibliographies resource guides researchers to the available scholarship across a wide variety of subjects.

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