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Sources for historical research: Historical sources

A guide to finding sources for historical research

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Welcome to the Sources for Historical Research Guide

This guide will familiarise you with resources particularly useful to research material for your History assignments.

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 2 minute video to learn more about primary and secondary sources.

Video Credit: Proquest Research Companion

This chart shows some examples of the distinction between primary and secondary sources:

  Primary Source Secondary Source
History Bayeux Tapestry Book titled: The Battle of Hastings : sources and interpretations
Anthropology Field notes Article in Journal of African cultural studies
Literature Jane Austen novel Book title: Jane Austen's Literary Manuscripts: A Study of the Novelist's development through the surviving papers
Politics Political cartoon Book titled: Philippine cartoons : political caricature of the American era, 1900-1941

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