When starting to research a historical topic, it's often best to start with a reference source that is related to your topic, such as the Atlas of the Medieval World or The Cambridge Ancient History. Search the library catalog and the e-book collection to locate this type of source or refer to the sources listed in the Backgound & General Information section found on this page.
Primary and Secondary Sources
Primary sources are accounts of an event, written by someone who experienced or witnessed the event in question. These original documents are often diaries, letters, autobiographies/memoirs, journals, speeches, manuscripts and interviews. They may also include newspaper or magazine articles (as long as they are written soon after the fact and not as historical accounts), photographs, audio or video recordings, research reports in the natural or social sciences, or original literary or theatrical works.
When searching for primary sources in the library catalog or databases, add words or phrases to your topic such as journal, autobiography or personal account.
Secondary sources interpret, analyze, report or describe primary sources. They are at least one step removed from the event or phenomenon under review.
Keep the following questions in mind when determining if something is a primary or secondary source.
Start by getting familiar with basic information about your topic.
How to find this type of information?
Please note, information found in general encyclopedias such as Encyclopedia Britannica or Funk & Wagnall's New Encyclopedia cannot be cited or used as a source for your research project.
Created by Hartness Library at the Community College of Vermont.
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