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Designed for psychology students, this guide takes you through the Library’s resources to improve your research.
Primary Sources

Primary sources are original documents created or experienced concurrently with the event. Primary sources give first-hand observations and contemporary accounts. See the Research Guides for a list of places to find primary source content for that subject or course.

Primary sources can include:

  • interviews
  • news footage
  • data sets
  • original research
  • speeches
  • diaries
  • letters
  • creative works
  • Oral records
  • Artifacts

Primary sources can include both published and unpublished materials.

The Basics of Primary Sources
  1. There is no single repository of primary sources, however, a multitude of organizations have digital collections and/or archives to varying degrees of professionalism.
  2. Because of the variety in collections of primary sources, there is often limited metadata, which means you will need to familiarize yourself on the terminology and subject tags for each collection. Thankfully, a quick browse around a collection should do the trick.
  3. Though some primary source documents remain undigitized and locally accessible, dedicated archivists and librarians frequently facilitate access upon request (it may cost a little something!).
  4. Embrace the challenge! Primary source material offers an engaging research experience, providing direct insight into the past unattainable through secondary sources. It empowers you to become an active analyst of historical events, applying the hindsight of the present to unmediated information. This valuable approach enriches research across diverse disciplines.
  5. Primary source material will vary by discipline.
  6. Copies, translations, or transcriptions of a primary source still count as a primary source.
Search Strategies for Primary Sources
  1. Conduct thorough background research and engage in relevant reading to enhance your effectiveness in searching. As your familiarity with terminology, key figures, and relevant locations grows, so too will your ability to navigate information resources effectively.
  2. Utilize overview works (general research tools) like encyclopedias, dictionaries, and websites to acquire foundational knowledge (Wikipedia can offer insights, but note its limitations for academic citation!)
  3. Consider the relevant time period and be mindful of historical communication delays, avoiding overly restrictive search parameters for time-bound topics.
Evaluating Primary Sources


Much like evaluating any source, you want to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Who was the author/creator?
  • When did he/she create the source and why?
  • Who was the intended audience?
  • What is the purpose of the source?
  • What was the context (historical, social, religious, political, etc.) in which the source was created?
  • Has the source been edited, translated, or altered?
  • What are the limitations of this source?
  • How does the account compare to that in other sources, both primary and secondary?
  • Consider the language used by the sources and whether meaning and/or context has changed?
  • What were the capabilities of the author/creator?
  • What are possible biases or assumptions of the author/creator?


Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources analyze, interpret, or otherwise discuss an event, era, person or topic in a manner that critiques or reviews the subject.

Secondary sources can include:

  • Books
  • Journal articles
  • Textbooks
  • Biographies

Types of Secondary Source Publications:

  1. Scholarly - intended for academic use with specialized vocabulary and extensive citations. They are often peer-reviewed.
  2. Popular - intended for the general public and typically written to entertain, inform, or persuade.
  3. Trade - intended to share general news, trends, and opinions within a certain industry. They are not considered scholarly because they do not focus on advanced research and are not peer-reviewed, even though they are usually written by experts.