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
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.
To find secondary sources in book form, search the library catalogs: OskiCat or MELVYL (about). To find articles that are secondary sources, search an article database, such as America: History and Life (US and Canada) or Historical Abstracts (world history).
Primary sources may be physically located in any of a number of UC Berkeley Libraries, or they may be available online.
Archives are collections of original unpublished, historical and contemporary material – in other words, primary sources. Before you go to any archival collection on campus you can save time and effort if you first:
Primary sources on campus may be in their original format; examples might include:
Some primary sources have been reproduced in another format, for instance:
Online primary sources may be found via free web sites as well as via Library databases.
Think about what types of primary sources might have been produced that would be relevant to your topic; think also about which persons or organizations might have produced materials. Some possible types of sources:
|Books||Photographs and images|
|Magazine and newspaper articles||Cartoons and advertisements|
|Diaries and journals||Movies, videos, DVDs|
|Memoirs and autobiographies||Audio recordings|
|Interviews||Public opinion polls|
|Speeches||Research data and statistics|
|Documents produced by organizations||Documents produced by government agencies, including congressional hearings and census records|
Gather the information you have about your topic and consider what you still need to know before you start researching. You can use this information in searching for primary sources.
Reference works and secondary sources can help you find background information on your topic. You may find reference sources by:
The Bancroft Library is one of the treasures of the campus, and one of the world's great libraries for the history of the American West.
Some Bancroft materials are available online via Calisphere, which includes primary sources from many California libraries and museums.
How to Use the Bancroft Library
1. Be prepared! Read secondary sources and know something about your topic.
2. Before you go: Search OskiCat so you can bring call numbers with you. You can limit your OskiCat search to find materials at the Bancroft Library, instead of all campus libraries (choose "Bancroft Library" from the pulldown menu that says "Entire Collection."). Remember that there are primary sources in many other campus libraries as well.
Important: if the item is in storage ("NRLF") and owned by The Bancroft Library, do not use the Request button in OskiCat. Instead, use the Bancroft's online request form AT LEAST 72 hours in advance (they prefer a week.)
If you have 72 hours in advance, you can also use the online request form for materials not in storage; that will speed things up when you arrive.
If the OskiCat record mentions a "finding aid" (an index) to a manuscript collection, you should use it to help you find what you need in the collection. If the finding aid is online there will be a link from the OskiCat record, or you can search the Online Archive of California to find it. The finding aids that are not online are near the Registration desk at the Bancroft Library.
3. Learn how to use the Bancroft Library. Read about Access (bring a quarter for lockers!) and Registration (bring two pieces of ID!). Remember to bring call numbers, titles, etc. with you. You will fill out a form to present to the Circulation Desk, and materials will be paged and brought to you.
5. Ask for assistance at The Bancroft Library's reference desk.