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Slavery in the United States: Find Articles

SRS 200

Primary and Secondary Sources

Historians distinguish between primary vs. secondary sources.

"Secondary" is fairly straightforward to define: what historians write about past phenomena.  The best known examples are books and journal articles.  Other formats can include papers in edited volumes, chapters, dissertations, and more.  Secondary source material interprets or describes the primary source material and draws conclusions about the events reported and can illustrate how our understanding has changed over time, or provide the necessary social or cultural context.  

"Primary" sources however take many forms--correspondence, diaries, personal narratives, photographs, official public records, news reports, advertisements...  Primary sources are usually contemporary with the past phenomena under study.  Primary sources are put into context by means of secondary sources. 

It is important to remember that primary sources may be reproduced and published much later.  Even if you are looking at a copy, it is still a primary source.



Try Primo, our new discovery interface - where you can locate physical resources, directly access electronic resources, and place requests across our collections.

Mind the scopes - scopes are searchable domains...the default scope is to search everything, books, articles and more. "everything" combines the library catalog (mostly books) and e-resources (mostly articles).

Search Tip:  Peer-reviewed journals may also contain items that are not peer reviewed, such as letters to the editor, opinion pieces, and book reviews. Even if you check the peer review limiter box, you still need to examine the items carefully to be sure they are scholarly articles.

Selected Databases

You can use multi-disciplinary databases such as ProQuest Central and EBSCOhost's Academic Search Premier

Selected Databases: Use the Browse Databases A-Z or Primo (discovers what you won't find in Google. It searches across many subscription databases and the library catalog simultaneously.)

If using EBSCOhost - select the Choose Databases link at the top if the screen and select multiple subject databases that are relevant to your topic.