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Historical research: Historical sources

Identify, find and evaluate primary and secondary historical sources.

In this guide

Historical sources

  • What are primary and secondary sources? 

Primary sources

  • Why use primary sources?
  • Where can I find primary sources?
  • Collections of primary sources
  • Evaluating primary sources

Secondary sources

  • Why use secondary sources?
  • What are secondary sources?
  • Evaluating secondary sources


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Welcome to the Historical Research Guide

This guide will familiarise you with resources particularly useful to historical research.

Primary and secondary sources

Historical research involves using primary and secondary sources.

In essence, primary sources are the original document, object or data that you are investigating.  Secondary sources are the interpretation, analysis or commentary about a primary source.  

Watch this 3 minute video to learn more about primary and secondary sources and how your research question shapes these definitions. 


Primary vs. secondary sources from Information Literacy by Elsa Loftis

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Historical source formats

Types of historical primary resources you might explore include: 

  • Personal diaries and autobiographies;
  • Manuscripts and original creative works;
  • Ephemera such as posters and pamphlets;
  • Archival collections such as the UWA Special Collections;
  • Historical newspapers, journals, and books;
  • Audio-visual collections, historical photos, film footage, paintings, and architecture;
  • The collections of national and state libraries, museums, and art galleries. 

See where you can find primary sources and often also secondary sources related to them. 


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