Learn the differences between primary, secondary, and tertiary sources.
What are primary sources?
Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence of an event or time period. They are created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. Often these sources are created at the time when events or conditions are occurring. Primary sources can include:
autobiographies and memoirs
oral histories & interviews
speeches & addresses
letters & newspapers from time of event
What are secondary sources?
Secondary sources use primary sources to analyze and interpret history. Instead of first-hand testimony, secondary sources are removed from witnessing the actual event or time period. Secondary sources can include:
books & book reviews
essays & anthologies
"A project of the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning of the City University of New York and the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, this site serves as a gateway to web resources and offers unique teaching materials, first-person primary documents, and guides to analyzing historical evidence." (site)
Primary Sources in History
Learn the characteristics of a primary source and the importance of using these resources in history research.
"What's the difference between Primary and Secondary Sources in History?" The Medieval Historian
Finding Primary Sources - Library Databases
Many of the Library databases include primary sources and have a filter to limit search results. The Library has a nice collection of both print and online anthologies of primary sources. Popular collections include:
A gateway to primary source materials relating to the history and culture of the United States. Primary sources include images, moving images, sound recordings, music, and text. There are more than 9 million items to be found in 100 collections.
Hosted by the University of Pittsburgh Library System, this extremely informative site includes links to local historical societies, maps, images, videos, a chronology of the history of Pittsburgh, and more. After clicking the Chronology link, it will take you to a page with a timeline at the top. Just click the timeline to further explore.
An evolving digital library sponsored by Tufts University, Department of Classics. Provides a broad range of text materials and images. Collections include sources or the study of Greek, Latin, Islamic, and American cultures, the English Renaissance, the history of London, and the history of Science.
Hosted on the Web by Fordham University, this project which contains "collections of public domain and copy-permitted historical texts," is great for finding primary historical resources. The three primary historical sourcebooks cover Ancient, Medieval, and Modern History. Additional historical sourcebooks are organized by theme. In addition to full-text historical documents, one can find links to secondary articles, reviews, discussions, and more.
For better online results, use your topic, time period, and add a type of primary source: