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
What Are Some Examples of Primary Sources?
How Do I Find Primary Sources in the Classic Catalogue?
Use keywords that describe your topic together with any/some of the following words:
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.