How to Do Library Research

This set of pages has information on how to do library research. In all cases, once you have located sources, be sure to evaluate them, using the evaluation guides.

Examples of Primary Sources

Examples of primary sources:

  • private diaries
  • photographs
  • direct results of research
  • laws--(U.S. Constitution)
  • novels, poems, plays
  • movies, screenplays
  • interviews with the person(s) directly involved
  • contracts
  • a report written by a witness of an event (composed that day); for example, newspaper articles describing that day or previous day's events;
    "contemporary" accounts
  • musical score
  • results of an experiment or a poll
  • documents directly relevant to an event or issue
  • artifacts--tools, clothing, furniture, buildings, etc.
  • letters
  • annual reports of companies
  • speeches
  • autobiographies (ripe for misrepresentation, although some are frankly truthful)
  • paintings, sculptures, carvings, posters, other art work
  • textiles (fabrics)

When writing a paper about a work of fiction, the novel, play, or poem is your primary source for information; secondary sources (critical studies, etc.) may help explain or interpret the text, but the text itself should be used as the main basis for any proofs and persuasions.

A secondary source is one that describes an event or issue from a distance. Good secondary sources use primary sources to compile their information. Examples of secondary sources are encyclopedias, handbooks, guides, textbooks, and many (if not most) non-fiction books and articles

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