Consult with your instructor or the librarians if you have questions about identifying appropriate primary sources for your research paper topic.
Primary sources are materials that provide direct evidence or firsthand testimony concerning the period or subject under investigation. The definition of a primary source may vary depending upon the discipline or context.
Autobiographies and memoirs
Diaries, papers, letters or correspondence, speeches
Documents such as laws, court decisions, treaties, charters, deeds, certificates
Novels, poems, or plays written at the time of the event
Photographs, architectural drawings, and artifacts
Primary sources are sometimes republished as books. Try a search in WorldCat Discovery using a keyword(s) that describes your topic in combination with one or more of the following terms:
Preus Library has journals, magazines, and newspapers that go back many decades. Articles from newspapers and magazines written at the time an event occurred can be a good source of primary information. Check your Paideia topic guide or contact your section’s librarian for specific starting points for researching articles.
Historical newspapers are an excellent primary source for investigating
events of a certain time period—and in our rapidly growing digital
world, many of the major newspapers are available electronically going
back to their inception. The Historical New York Times is one example of this.
The Luther College Archives is located on the Upper Floor of Preus Library and is available for students during open research hours. The Archives contains the historical records of the college and the personal papers of people affiliated with the college. It is a rich resource of primary source materials on a wide variety of topics. The Archives phone number is x1805. Visit the Luther College Archives home page.
An increasing number of web sites offer digital versions of primary sources, and can be an excellent resource photographs, scanned images of original documents, reprints of diaries and letters. Some sites are specific to a certain event or era, while others provide more wide-ranging historical documents.
- Secondary sources usually are published after the event(s) or time period being studied
- Secondary sources often report on or analyze people, events, conditions, and historical periods
- Secondary sources often include and synthesize information from other sources - primary sources, books, and articles
Examples of secondary sources include, but are not limited to, the following: