Colorado Water History

A guide to finding and using historical information about water in Colorado and beyond

Where to Begin Historical Research

Before diving in to archival research, take time to learn what you can from books and other secondary sources.

Starting with secondary sources can save time! They allow you to gain knowledge quickly about your topic and provide context for archival documents (primary sources). Further, if you pay attention to footnotes/endnotes and bibliographies, you will find more books as well as archival sources that you might want to use in your own research.

Primary Source vs. Secondary Source

Primary sources were created by someone who was present at or who heard firsthand about an event. They were created at the time, or very close to the time, at which an event occurred; they are used to create secondary sources. Letters, data, and photographs are primary sources.

Secondary sources compile evidence from primary sources. They explain the big picture and provide the context for primary sources. They are usually created years (or centuries) after the events they describe. Textbooks are secondary sources.

Learn more about sources

Tips for Books & Other Secondary Sources

  • When reading secondary sources, note areas that are particularly relevant to your topic and look at corresponding footnotes/endnotes/bibliography. This will lead to more sources -- both primary and secondary.
  • After using the Colorado water history bibliography, continue to look for more information related to your topic through the Library's Primo catalog system. If you are affiliated with CSU, you can continue looking in Prospector, WorldCat, and ILLiad, as well.
  • When searching, use a variety of word choices and organization to find resources. In some cases "water resources" and "resources, water" may produce different results.

Your Archivist

Patricia Rettig's picture
Patricia Rettig
Archives & Special Collections
Morgan Library
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523-1019

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