UO Libraries primary sources collections offer extraordinary research opportunities. Particular strengths include Oregon heritage: history and politics, the University of Oregon, documentary photography, lives of women, intentional communities and alternative voices, pioneers and tribal peoples. With thousands of complex collections to choose from, finding just what you need can be hard. We offer the following resources:
"A primary source is a document, image, or artifact that provides evidence about the past. It is an original document created contemporaneously with the event under discussion. A direct quote from such a document is classified as a primary source. A secondary source is a book, article, film, or museum that displays primary sources selectively in order to interpret the past." Robert C. Williams, The Historian's Toolbox: A Student's Guide to the Theory and Craft of History, p.58
Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during a historical event or time period. A primary source reflects the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer. Many primary sources are unique and can only be found in one library or manuscript collection in the world. Fortunately, many have also been copied onto microfilm, published, reissued, translated, or, in some instances, published digitally on the web. Remember, however, your best source may not be on the web.
Some examples of primary sources include:
A secondary source is a work that interprets or analyzes an event or phenomenon well after the fact. It is generally at least one step removed from the event. An article about the writings of Jorge Luis Borges or one written in 1990 exploring the history of the Vietnam war, would be considered a secondary source since it would be written later looking back at the event, while Borges's writings themselves or a news article written during the Vietnam war would be considered primary.
To help place a primary source in its context-historically, culturally, politically, etc.-start with Research Guides by Subject. These guides provide information about relevant article indexes, reference sources, and search strategies that will help you locate secondary sources.