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Primary Sources  

Last Updated: Mar 28, 2016 URL: http://guides.library.mun.ca/content.php?pid=401223 Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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What are Primary and Secondary Sources?

Primary sources are:

  • first hand accounts of an event
  • materials created by participants or witnesses of the event(s) under study
  • original records created at the time the historical events occurred
  • raw data for the historian

Secondary sources are:

  • works that discuss a subject, but which are written after the time that the event(s) occurred - [by someone other than an eyewitness]
  • works that contain explanations/judgements/discussions of past events
  • works that explain or interpret primary sources
 

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What Are Some Examples of Primary Sources?

Official Records

Cabinet Papers
Ambassadors' Reports
Parliamentary Debates
Correspondence
Diplomatic Dispatches 

Published Sources

Newspapers
Autobiographies
Memoirs
Speeches
Pamphlets/Treatises

Private Sources

Letters
Diaries
Treaties
Parish Records
Laws

 

How Do I Find Primary Sources in the Classic Catalogue?

Use keywords that describe your topic together with any/some of the following words:

Autobiography/Autobiographies
Biography
Correspondence
Diary/Diaries
Interview/Interviews
Journal
Letter/Letters
Personal narratives
Public opinion
Sources
Speech/Speeches

Example: cold war and (letter$ or narrative$ or correspondence)
               and click on Search Everything

($ (dollar sign) is the wildcard/truncation symbol in the catalogue, and would retrieve "letter" or "letters", etc.)

  • Look at the publication dates of the book and the birth/death dates of the author:
    • The date of the original publication may give you an indication that you have a primary source. Look for the publication date or a note about the original publication.
      If the birth and death dates of the author are such that he/she lived during the time of your event you may have a primary source.

  • Look at notes in the record:
    • There may be notes in the record which describe the material and give clues as to whether or not it is a primary source. For instance, if there is a note indicating that the work is a facsimile or a reprint, then you may have a primary source

For help finding specific newspapers in the catalogue, take a look at our guide specific to those primary sources.

 

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