Loyola University Chicago Libraries

English: Finding Primary Sources

Primary Sources on the Web

Archival Catalog

Find Primary Sources in Loyola's Collections

If you are uncertain about how to find primary sources for  your topic, consider trying one or more of the following:

1.  Ask your professor about important sources on your topic.

2.  Contact a reference librarian to learn how to find primary sources in Loyola's collections and beyond.

3.  Talk to our University Archivist or our Women & Leadership Archivist about Loyola's collections, as well as collections that may be held in local area archives.

You can use the Pegasus Catalog to locate published primary source collections.  While performing a subject search in Pegasus, use the subdivisions below to retrieve primary material on your topic:

Diaries
Case studies
Personal narratives
Songs and music
Correspondence
Public opinion
Photography
Caricatures and cartoons
Interviews
Pictorial works
Underground literature
Exhibitions --posters
Anecdotes
Sermons
Sources 

In addition, look for the Limit by Date option to find materials published during a particular year or range of years.

What is a Primary Source?

A primary source is firsthand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic, an event, a person's life, original works of literature, and historical facts. It consists of original materials that have not been filtered through interpretation, condensation, evaluation or any type of commentary. Primary sources are usually the first formal appearance of results and offer an immediate picture of the topic under investigation.

Examples : 

Proceedings and minutes
Letters and Correspondence
Scientific journal articles reporting research results
Original documents (birth certificate, transcripts)
Technical reports
Photographs and works of art
Patents
Speeches
Sets of data such as Census Statistics
Autobiographies, memoirs
Works of literature (poems or fiction)
Eyewitness accounts
Diaries
Constitution, statutes
Interviews, surveys
Treaties
Encyclicals and Other Papal Writings

What is a Secondary Source?

 

A secondary source is information about primary, or original information, which usually has been modified, selected, or rearranged after the fact, for a specific purpose or audience. It can be a description, an interpretation, an analysis, a commentary and an evaluation of an historical event or phenomenon, or the original writing of an author.

Examples:

Biographies
Indexes and Abstracts
Bibliographies
Chronologies
Encyclopedia articles
Commentaries
Dictionaries
Dissertations and Thesis
Directories
Monographs (non fiction)
Editorials
Review articles and Literature review
Textbooks
Work of criticism and interpretation
Periodical articles
Almanacs and Fact books

Please note:
Primary sources tend to stand on their own, while secondary sources are based on other sources, but it is not always easy to discern the difference between the two. The same document, or other piece of evidence, may be a primary source to one researcher and a secondary source to another. 

For example:  If you are doing research on Pearl Harbor, a newspaper article commemorating December 7th, 1941 is a secondary source.  An article dated of December 7th, 1941 and reporting the attack on Pearl Harbor is a primary source.