Frequently Asked Questions

What are primary sources?

Two definitions:

1. For historians and researchers in related fields, primary sources are original items from the past that are used to gain an understanding of that time period. These might take the form of diaries, letters, photographs or other materials. Works that interpret primary sources (for example scholarly books or journal articles) are called secondary sources.

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2. In some scientific disciplines (the physical, chemical, and biological sciences), "primary literature" or "primary research" refers to journal articles or reports that contain new data generated by the authors themselves through their own lab or field work, rather than reviews, summaries, or analyses of others' data.

To find this kind of primary research, you should go to the Database Finder, choose a subject, pick a database, search on your topic, and examine the results for articles or reports that match the definition above.

#0023 | 2017-04-20 CL

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