In historical research, a primary source can be any source of information created at the time of a historical event or by a direct participant in or observer of an event.
Primary sources can include memoirs, diaries, correspondence, interviews, photographs, newspaper or magazine articles, film footage, news broadcasts, official documents, speeches, maps, artifacts, and works of fiction or drama.
What constitutes a primary source depends entirely on the subject of research. For example, John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage would be a secondary source in a study of John Quincy Adams or Sam Houston, but it could serve as a primary source if the topic of study were Kennedy himself.
Choose historically appropriate keywords. For example, use "Great War" instead of "World War I" to locate documents discussing the war during and just after it occurred. You may also consider different terms that might have been used to describe the same event from opposing sides or perspectives. Searching for the names of particular people or places may also be effective, but consider how the names might be presented (last name only, or as part of a title) and how country and city names have changed over time.
|Books||Photographs and images|
|Magazine and newspaper articles||Cartoons and advertisements|
|Diaries and journals||Movies, videos, and 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
To locate potential primary sources in the library's online catalog, Primo, look for subject headings that contain terms such as diaries, letters, correspondence, autobiography, interviews, or personal narratives following the main heading.
ZSR's Special Collection and Archives may contain useful materials on your topic. There are a variety of ways to search these materials, depending on their format. The SCA website contains more information about hours and research help.
1. Search SCA materials (including books) in the library catalog. These include rare books from Britain and Ireland going back to the 18th century, such as travel narratives and papers from various figures in British history.
2. Search SCA finding aids to locate materials in collections that are not digitized. (Visit the Special Collections and Archives room in ZSR 625 for help using finding aids!)