Primary Source Research Paper

Primary sources are available both online and in the library. To locate published primary source materials in Randall Library, use the UNCW Library Catalog. You can start with a keyword search for your topic (e.g. "civil rights movement"), which will retrieve secondary sources as well as primary. From there, drill down to focus on primary sources by:

 1. Clicking on a relevant record, such as this book.

 2. Scrolling down to the section labeled "Subject" and clicking on a relevant subject term. Subject terms are "controlled vocabulary" terms that classify all items in the library catalog to make it easier to find things on those topics. In this example, you can click on the subject "Civil rights movements -- United States -- History -- 20th Century."

 3. After you've done that, you'll see a list of subject terms in alphabetical order. Use the search box and add words onto the end of the subject term that signify primary sources. Sources is always a good places to start, but you can also try words such as correspondence or diaries. Since the list is in alphabetical order, you can also scroll through to find subject terms that sound like they'd relate to primary sources. 

4. So, in this example, you would add " -- Sources" onto the end of the existing subject term - "Civil rights movements -- United States -- History -- 20th Century -- Sources" - and search for that. If you click on the resulting term, you will see a list of all items in Randall Library that have been given that classification - including, for example, this book entitled Eyes on the Prize that probably contains a number of useful primary sources for this topic.​

For some research projects you may be required to use primary sources. How can you identify these?

Primary Sources

A primary source provides direct or firsthand evidence about an event, object, person, or work of art. Primary sources include historical and legal documents, eyewitness accounts, results of experiments, statistical data, pieces of creative writing, audio and video recordings, speeches, and art objects. Interviews, surveys, fieldwork, and Internet communications via email, blogs, listservs, and newsgroups are also primary sources. In the natural and social sciences, primary sources are often empirical studies—research where an experiment was performed or a direct observation was made. The results of empirical studies are typically found in scholarly articles or papers delivered at conferences.

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources describe, discuss, interpret, comment upon, analyze, evaluate, summarize, and process primary sources. Secondary source materials can be articles in newspapers or popular magazines, book or movie reviews, or articles found in scholarly journals that discuss or evaluate someone else's original research.

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