Primary sources are first-hand accounts of an event or an era created by participants of the immediate time-period.
Primary sources are original documents, artworks, or artifacts that provide historical evidence upon which later analysis and reporting is based.
-Letters, diaries, memoirs, speeches
-Art works [novels, poems, paintings, songs, murals, etc.]
-Artifacts [advertisements, posters, pamphlets, clothing, buildings, etc.]
-Original data, original research & case studies
-E-mail, blogs, Tweets
• Often uses first-person voice
"I saw... I escaped... I believed... We surveyed... We studied..."
• Has original, direct perspective
• Is an original, creative product;
a new study, conducted for the first time
• Is a product of its immediate time or era
• Testifies, emotes, expresses
...is never easy. How you go about it depends on your topic. It's a good idea to ask for personal help from a professor or librarian; they may recommend a specialized resource for your research. Here are some search tricks you can try:
» Search in a Library Catalog for books or publications that contain primary sources. Conduct an Advanced Search for...
» Search in a database that supplies primary source materials, such as...
» Search in digital collections hosted on the World Wide Web. Find a collection focussed on the era, region, or topic that you're researching and see what you can find! This page lists many useful digital collections [compiled by the CSULA history liaison, Holly Yu].
Secondary sources offer analysis and interpretation of primary sources. Secondary sources are typically published well after the events of the original time period.
A book analyzing an event that happened years before, or an essay interpreting a poem or speech--these are secondary sources.
-Analytical scholarly articles
-Analytical essays & critiques
-Book reviews, music reviews, art reviews
• Often uses third-person voice
"He saw... She escaped... They believed... They surveyed...
• Has second-hand, indirect perspective
• Dependent, derivational product
• Produced after some time has passed
• Reports upon, analyzes, interprets
Imagine you're studying the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II in the Manzanar relocation camp.
Consider each of the following resources and reflect: Is it a primary or secondary source?
Front page: Manzanar Free Press
April 10, 1943
"Our Testament to Democracy": The Deception of Japanese American Internment in World War II
Laura Sorvetti in The Forum: Cal Poly's Journal of History, 2009
[ Click on the Comments link below to see suggested answers! ]
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