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Primary Sources: Definition & Examples

Explanation of primary sources with lists of resources for locating them in Woodward Library

Primary Sources in the Library Collection

Watch Veteran Interviews

Forrest Gore

Clip from video interview with World War II Veteran Forrest Gore. (Download Video)

Veterans Oral History Project

Download this item and watch many other video interviews in the APSU Veterans' Oral History Project.

ARTstor

ARTstor is a collection of nearly one million digital images in the areas of art, architecture, the humanities, and the social sciences. It includes a set of tools to view, present, and manage images for research and teaching.

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Mobile version availableA Mobile Version of this Guide is Available.

Primary Resources

U.S. Constitution

A primary source is an original object or document -- the raw material or first-hand information, source material that is closest to what is being studied.

Primary sources vary by discipline and can include historical and legal documents, eye witness accounts, results of an experiment, statistical data, pieces of creative writing, and art objects. In the natural and social sciences, the results of an experiment or study are typically found in scholarly articles or papers delivered at conferences, so those articles and papers that present the original results are considered primary sources.

secondary source is something written about a primary source. Secondary sources include comments on, interpretations of, or discussions about the original material.  Secondary source materials can be articles in newspapers or popular magazines, book or movie reviews, or articles found in scholarly journals that evaluate or criticize someone else's original research.

A tertiary source is a distillation and collection of primary and secondary sources.

Examples

From http://www.lib.umd.edu/guides/primary-sources.html

SUBJECT PRIMARY SECONDARY
Art and Architecture Painting by Manet Article critiquing art piece
Chemistry/Life Sciences Einstein's diary Bookon Einstein's life
Engineering/Physical Sciences Patent NTIS database
Humanities Letters by Martin Luther King Web site on King's writings
Social Sciences Notes taken by clinical psychologist Magazine article about the psychological condition
Performing Arts Movie filmed in 1942 Biography of the director

Primary vs. Secondary

This video tutorial from the Hartness Library on You Tube offers some good illustrations of the difference between primary and secondary sources.  It also includes an overview of how primary and secondary sources can vary based on a research topic.

Subject Guide

Michael Hooper
Contact:
Library 324
931-221-7092

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Citing Sources

Citing Sources

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