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HSS 100 - Imperial China: Primary Sources

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What is a Primary Source?

Primary Source vs. Secondary Source

A primary source is a document that shows direct, immediate or firsthand knowledge of a subject or event. It is a document written at the time or on the scene where an event occurred.

Secondary sources are those writings without direct knowledge of a topic or event. These include biographies, monographs, and general periodical articles. Secondary sources are written by people who did not witness or experience an event but have a great deal of knowledge about the topic. Writers often use primary sources in their writing of secondary sources!

Finding Primary Sources

You can find primary sources for this topic in three places:

  1. Books. Many of the e-books on the e-Reserves have primary sources in them. Look for words in the book's title like "a documentary history" or "sources." Also look for clues within the text like block quotes and distinct sections with a different author.
  2. Databases. Many of the databases you looked at in the Reference Sources tab have primary sources within them. Those with primary sources are relisted below. Try playing with search filters to make sure you are looking at primary sources in the search results.
  3. Websites. Below are a few websites with primary sources. Make sure to note the difference between any introductory text and the primary source itself.

If you're not sure if you're looking at a primary source, just ask a librarian for help!

Databases with Primary Sources

Websites with Primary Sources

You can also sometimes find primary sources on websites.

However, not all websites are trustworthy and worthy of citation in your academic work. Be sure to consider who is responsible for a website, when and where it was created and updated, and for what purpose. Always ask your teacher or a librarian to vet a website before citing it in your paper.

Below are some websites with primary source-type information that you can use in your research: