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ES101A Social Science Research Methods (Spring 2023)

Course library guide for Ethnic Studies 101A: Social Science Research Methods (Spring 2023)

Primary Sources

Primary Sources

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 of primary sources include historical newspapers, oral history interviews, posters, photographs, pamphlets, and more. 

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.

See the Finding Historical Primary Sources Library Guide for a comprehensive guide to locating primary sources.

Recommended Primary Source Databases

Where are Primary Sources at UCB?

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.

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Archives are collections of original unpublished, historical and contemporary material – in other words, collections of primary sources.  Before you go to any archival collection on campus you can save time and effort if you first:

  • Note the hours of each location.   Explore the library's web site and any special use conditions that may apply (registration, lockers, appointments, materials that need to be recalled from storage, restrictions on duplication, etc.)
  • Search the discovery tool for the 10 UC libraries:  UC Library Search (guide)  to find the titles and call numbers of specific items.
  • If you need to use manuscript collections, look to see if the collection has a finding aid.  Some finding aids list the contents of collections, box by box, folder by folder; others are less detailed.  Some finding aids are available online via the Online Archive of California  (the primary source itself may or may not be available online).
  • For more information about using archives (the organizations that collect manuscript collections) please see The Bancroft Library's Introduction to primary source research.

Ask for assistance (24/7 chat, appointments, etc.) at any time!

Title Page, Elizabeth Lew oral history



Online Archive of California & Calisphere

oac home page

Guides to over 20,000 collections housed in 200 libraries, archives, historical societies, special collections and museums across California are searchable at the Online Archive of California (OAC). Collection guides, also known as finding aids, are descriptive guides to archival (primary source) collections. These collections may be physically located in archives or digitized on the web. The guides help users learn more about the scope of a collection so they know if it is likely to meet their research needs.

calisphere home page

Digitized versions of photographs, documents, newspapers, political cartoons, works of art, diaries, transcribed oral histories, and other cultural artifacts that are contributed by these California institutions to the OAC make up the content included in Calisphere.