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.
After you've found your primary sources, learn to analyze them using The Bancroft Library's Primary Source Analysis Exercises.
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Archives are collections of original unpublished, historical and contemporary material – in other words, collections of primary sources.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:
Ask for assistance (24/7 chat, appointments, etc.) at any time!
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|
Finding Background Information
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.
Many users go to Wikipedia for background information, but the Library also provides reference works and secondary sources to 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 and Mexico.
Some Bancroft materials are available online via Calisphere, which also includes primary sources from many other California libraries and museums. Bancroft also maintains additional digital resources.
Before you go:
Be prepared! Read secondary sources and know something about your topic.
Register as a researcher. Registration is free and takes just a few minutes using the Aeon online registration form to register in advance. For more information, see the Aeon guide.
In UC Library Search you can narrow your search to UC Berkeley special collections and archives. As you type your search, options to search different parts of the Library system appear. Narrowing your search this way is also possible in Advanced Search.
Materials must be requested using Aeon. You must have an Aeon account to request materials. It is recommended that you request your materials in advance of your visit and to submit your requests at least one week prior to your visit to Bancroft. For more information please visit the Aeon guide.
If the UC Library Search 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 catalog record. Many of the finding aids that are not online are shelved near the Registration Desk at the Bancroft Library. You can also search for Bancroft finding aids in the Online Archive of California.
Before you go, plan your visit (and bring a quarter for a locker).
During your visit:
How to Get to the Bancroft Library
Check the current hours for the Bancroft Library. For more information, see the Aeon guide.
The Bancroft Library is on the second floor of Doe, on the east side (the side closest to the Campanile). See a floor plan of Doe Library 2nd floor (pdf).