Distinguishing between primary and secondary sources is an important first step in scholary research. As critical inquiry is essential to solid, accurate research, scholars need to know the difference. According to the Society of American Archivists, primary sources are defined as "material that contains firsthand accounts of events and that was created contemporaneous to those events or later recalled by an eyewitness."
The SAA also defines secondary resources as "works not based on direct observation of or evidence directly associated with the subject, but instead relying on sources of information", as well as "works commenting on another work (primary sources), such as reviews, criticism, and commentaries."
The American Library Association's Reference and User Services Association has a detailed guide discussing the use of primary sources in research. Princeton University also provides a comparative overview of primary and secondary resources to aid in distinguishing between the two.
Use the sub-pages to find relevant resources for your class projects.
Helpful keywords and subject headings:
Many of the items listed in this guide are electronic resources. If you prefer to use a print copy, you can change the edition in the catalog and request a print copy for delivery to the library. For these items that have the designation Available for request (place hold) and Interlibrary Loan users can click the Place Hold button for items within other PALNI libraries. Once clicked, sign in with your MU credentials, click submit, and the request has been placed. Once a requested item has been delivered to us, an automatic confirmation email will be sent.
Interlibrary Loan is another version of this service. This is used when there are no items directly available for request, whereby a librarian will search for available copies. Instead of clicking the Place Hold button, users will click the Request Item button. More information on Interlibrary Loan can be found here.