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HIST 495: Historiography and Research Writing

This course guide was created to accompany a library-led instruction session for HIST 495 covering research methods and library services available for students.

What is a primary source?

A primary source is a document or other piece of evidence written or created during the time being studied, or by one of the persons or organizations directly involved with the event. Some examples of primary sources include:

  • Original Documents: Diaries, speeches, letters, minutes, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records
  • Creative Works: Poetry, drama, novels, music, art, films
  • Relics or Artifacts: Jewelry, pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings, tools
  • Statistics: public opinion polls, census data, labor statistics

Why use primary sources?

When doing historical research, primary sources can give you a more personal view of the period or event you are researching. While secondary sources (sources created after the fact) can be useful for looking back at an event or time more critically through the lens of "what happened next," primary sources can tell you how the people at the time you are studying felt about the events happening around them

Where to find primary sources: 

You can find primary sources in newspapers, archives and special collections, or databases that specialize in a given topic (i.e. Historical Statistics of the United States). A few examples are pulled out below:

Looking for something more specific? Check out the History Research Guide for additional resources: 

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Becca Yowler