Primary sources were either created during the time period being studied or were created at a later date by a participant in the events being studied (as in the case of memoirs). They reflect the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer. Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during an historical event or time period. Examples include: photographs, interviews, diaries, letters, and governement records.
A secondary source is a work that interprets or analyzes an historical event or phenomenon. It is generally at least one step removed from the event is often based on primary sources. Examples include: scholarly or popular books and articles, reference books, and textbooks.
How can you determine whether an item is a primary source?
The following characteristics can help you differentiate primary sources from those that are not.
There are many access points to the vast collections of primary sources available to you.
Certain words and phrases will find primary sources in library catalogs. You can use these in OskiCat or Melvyl:
-early works to 1800
For specific search strategies, see the Library's guide to Finding Historical Primary Sources.
Your searches will be more successful if, in your preliminary research, you identify specific: