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Research Starter Toolkit

This guide will help you learn how to use library resources in order to complete your research. Here you will learn how to access library databases, journal articles, books, and more.

What is a "Primary Source?"

Primary sources are records that provide first-hand accounts or evidence of an event, action, topic, or time period. Primary sources are usually created by individuals that directly experience an event or topic.

Examples of primary sources include:

  • Letters, diaries, and journals
  • Speeches
  • Interviews
  • Original notes or research
  • Photographs, artwork, or other visual artifacts
  • Works of literature (story, poem, novel, etc.)
  • Government documents 
  • Original social media posts


How to use primary sources:

Primary sources can give direct evidence, specific details, and can provide a window into the feelings, reactions, and perceptions of a time. Primary sources might be used as an example or evidence in your paper. The downside of primary sources is that they may include bias, give a limited perspective, or lack context (HACC Library:


Where to find primary sources:

What is a Secondary Source?

Secondary Sources are accounts written after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. They are interpretations and evaluations of primary sources. Secondary sources are not evidence, but rather commentary on and discussion of evidence (Yale University Library, "Primary, secondary & tertiary sources" 

Most of your research assignments will require you to use secondary sources. 

Examples of secondary sources include: 

  • Academic journal articles
  • Biographies
  • Books (other than fiction and autobiographies)
  • Documentaries (though these often contain primary sources, the whole of the work is considered a secondary source)
  • Essays 
  • Histories
  • Literary criticism 
  • Magazine and newspaper articles


Where to find Secondary Sources

Secondary sources that are suitable for use in academic research can be found through the library's research databases and book catalog. Check out Search the Library Catalog, What are Library Databases, and Search the Library Databases for helpful tips on using those resources:

Please CONTACT US if you have questions.