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History (U.S.) Research Guide: Primary Sources

Guide to essential resources in U.S. History research

Primary Sources in the Library Collection

Off Campus Access

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Definitions

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.

US History Primary Source Resources (APSU subscriptions)

US History Primary Source Resources (free to all)

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