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HSS 201 - Age of Exploration: Primary Sources

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Primary & Secondary Sources

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 our E-Books 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

E-Books with Primary Sources

The books below are from the Internet Archive.  If you are using a book from this website, you will need to log in and create a FREE account with your P.A. email address in order to "borrow" the book.  If there is no "borrow" link, you may use it freely without logging in.  In Noodletools, you would cite any books from Internet Archive as "Where is it?" > Website, "What is it?" > Book.