Research involves examining primary sources (original material) to test and validate the point of view or interpretation of the material later published as a reference work or secondary source.
A primary source is direct evidence to the event, person, or subject of research, however on its own it may be difficult to interpret.
Use primary sources to:
When you present your conclusions, you will have produced another secondary source to aid others in their research.
Published primary Sources can be found using:
Browsing footnotes and bibliographies in secondary sources such as books, journal articles and theses can be helpful in identifying relevant primary sources.
A commonly asked question is: Can I use a digital copy online or published in a book as a primary source?
Answer: Yes, primary sources are characterised by their content, regardless of whether they are available in their original format, in microform, in digital format, or as a facsimile in a published document.
Library subscription databases for primary sources
National and State Libraries are a rich source of primary source materials, more and more of which are being available online. See the tab Libraries and Archives for examples.
Below is a short selection of freely available primary source collections online.
National and State Libraries, National Archives and State Records Offices as well as Archives of international organisations are a rich source of primary source materials, more and more of which are being available online. See for example:
The National Archives of Australia can best be described as the memory of our nation – collecting and preserving Australian Government records that reflect our history and identity. The collection traces events and decisions that have shaped the nation and the lives of Australians and can be explore online or in person.
Trove from the National Library of Australia. Search for:
are responsible for all aspects of UN record-keeping, ranging from measures to ensure that United Nations officials create records in the course of their duties, through the management of records in United Nations offices, to preserving and making records of continuing value accessible as United Nations archives.
The Historical Archives Service manages the archives of the European Commission and organisations that preceded it. Members of the public can consult minutes of meetings, speeches and other materials in its Brussels reading room.
Primary sources are the foundations of histories. Evaluation of the sources is essential to scholarly research.
Information accessed using the internet needs to be critically evaluated. Consult: