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American History

Research Guide for History 108 and History 109

Introduction

The purpose of this guide is to assist you in conducting research for assignments in:
History 108: Early American History - Exploration of Early U.S. History from Settlement through the Civil War
History 109: Modern American History - Survey of the U.S. from Reconstruction to the present

Included in this guide are:

  • print and electronic reference resources
  • where to search for books and periodical articles
  • streaming video and DVD/VHS resources
  • primary sources

. . . available in the Cuyamaca College Library collection.

Suggested websites and web searching strategies are also provided.

Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary Sources Defined

Primary sources are the evidence of history, original records or objects created by participants or observers at the time historical events occurred or even well after events, as in memoirs and oral histories. Primary sources may include but are not limited to: letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, maps, speeches, interviews, documents produced by government agencies, photographs, audio or video recordings, born-digital items (e.g. emails), research data, and objects or artifacts (such as works of art or ancient roads, Primary sources are the evidence of history, original records or objects created by participants or observers at the time historical events occurred or even well after events, as in memoirs and oral histories. Primary sources may include but are not limited to: letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, maps, speeches, interviews, documents produced by government agencies, photographs, audio or video recordings, born-digital items (e.g. emails), research data, and objects or artifacts (such as works of art or ancient roads, buildings, tools, and weapons). These sources serve as the raw materials historians use to interpret and analyze the past.

-Reference and User Services Association, American Library Association

Secondary Sources Defined

A secondary source is anything that describes, interprets, evaluates, or analyzes information from primary sources. Secondary sources are created by individuals who did not experience first-hand or participate in the events, conditions, or objects you are researching. Secondary sources are one or more steps removed from the event or object of study. Secondary sources may include but are not limited to: books, journal articles, histories, criticisms, commentaries, and encyclopedias, and documentaries.

Using Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary sources often serve as the object or topic of study in the research process. For example, The United States Capitol Building could serve as the subject of your research paper. By choosing the Capitol Building, you are making it the primary source in your paper. In writing your paper, you need to use sources of information to support your paper's discussion. Depending on what you are researching about the Capitol Building, you will use secondary sources of information like encyclopedias, books, and journal articles to support your research. Additionally, your secondary sources become the information you cite in your paper and use to create your bibliography or works cited page.

For more on Primary Sources click this link Primary Sources on the Web: Finding, Evaluating, Using

For a video on Primary and Secondary Sources click this link Primary and Secondary Sources or watch the tutorial below.

 

Primary and Secondary Sources Tutorial