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Research Process

Get help with any part of the research process.

A source is classified by whether the author is reporting on first hand experiences or relying on and interpreting the views of others.

Video: What is a Primary Source?

Posted with permission from the University of California San Diego Libraries.

Find Primary Sources in the Library

Search the OneSearch to find primary source material for your topic. Try adding one of the keywords below:

  • correspondence
  • diaries
  • early works
  • interviews
  • manuscripts
  • pamphlets
  • personal narratives
  • sources
  • speeches
  • letters
  • documents

You can also find primary sources in specific databases. Find a list of all databases containing primary sources on the Databases A-Z page or try some of our favorites here:

Comparison of Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources

When evaluating the quality of the information you are using, it is useful to identify if you are using a Primary, Secondary, or Tertiary source. By doing so, you will be able recognize if the author is reporting on his/her own first hand experiences, or relying on the views of others.

Source Type Examples
A first person account by someone who experienced or witnessed an event. This original document has not been previously published or interpreted by anyone else.
  • First person account of an event
  • First publication of a scientific study or original research (many peer-reviewed and scholarly journal articles)
  • Speech or lecture
  • Original artwork
  • Handwritten manuscript
  • Letters between two people
  • A diary
  • Historical documents, e.g. Bill of Rights
One step removed from the primary original source. The author is analyzing, evaluating interpreting and forming conclusions based on the information that is conveyed in the primary source.
  • Newspaper reporting on a scientific study
  • Review of a music CD or art show
  • Biography


Further removed from primary source. It leads the researcher to a secondary source, rather than to the primary source.

  • Bibliography
  • Index to articles
  • Library catalog