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History: Step 1: Identifying Primary Sources

A guide to help both history majors and students enrolled in history courses jump-start their research.


Delaware Heritage Collection

The Delaware Heritage Collection is a digital repository sponsored by the Delaware Division of Libraries. As a member, DSU contributes scanned items from our archives to our own distinct collection within the site. These items are freely accessible from anywhere to anyone. This is a great place to start if you are looking for primary sources related to the university!

Delaware Heritage Collection screen shot

Primary Sources

What are Primary Sources?

Primary sources are materials created during a given historical period and offer an inside view of a particular event including the ideas, thoughts, and attitudes of the individuals, organizations, or governments involved. Primary sources record someone's actual experience and are the foundation for scholarly research.

      Examples of Primary Sources:

  •  Original Documents (excerpts or translations acceptable):
    • diaries and journals
    • speeches
    • manuscripts
    • letters and correspondence
    • interviews
    • autobiographies
    • memoirs
    • advertisements
    • government records (census data, published reports, etc.
  • Relics or Artifacts:
    • pottery
    • furniture
    • clothing
    • buildings
  •  Artistic works:
    • photographs
    • poetry
    • film footage
    • art works
    • posters


Secondary Sources

What are Secondary Sources?

Secondary Sources use primary sources to answer research questions, solve problems, and interpret the past.  The authors or creators of these sources were not present at the time of the event they seek to explain.

   Examples of secondary sources:

  • textbooks
  • encyclopedias
  • magazine articles
  • reviews and commentaries
  • books about past events for which the author was not present

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Rejoice Scherry