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HUM 120: Introduction to the Humanities: Humanities Resources

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Humanities Resources

Primary v. Secondary Sources: What's the Difference?

Doing research can involve looking for different types of sources, such as primary and secondary sources. Be familiar with the differences between these two types of sources.

  • Primary Sources: Primary sources are original historical records such as letters, manuscripts, diaries, memoirs, speeches, interviews, government documents, photographs, audio recordings and oral histories, videos or other objects or artifacts relating to historical events or works of art. records created at the time historical events occurred or well after events in the form of memoirs and oral histories. Primary sources may include
  • Secondary Sources: Secondary sources are documents written based on the information provided by primary sources and offer historical perspective or an author's interpretation or analysis. Examples of these kinds of sources include journal and magazine articles, newspaper articles, books, encyclopedias and textbooks.

What kinds of resources can be used for research?

Below are examples of sources that can be used for research for course assignments. Always check with your professor if you have questions! 

Databases: These are authoritative resources that index citations or full-text availability of articles, often in PDF format, on a wide variety of subjects. You can go directly to Primo to search most MCTC Library databases!. Databases can also provide access to specific formats and information content such as photographs, graphs, videos or audio files. The MCTC library subscribes to many databases, such as ProQuest, and provides access to EBSCOHost through the Kentucky Virtual Library. NOTE: Take notice of the TYPE of journal article you are looking at online! Some are scholarly, professional journals while others are written for the general population. A number of sources found in databases are REVIEWS or COMMENTARIES so make sure you are choosing the type of source that is best suited to your research assignment. 

Newspapers: These are available in the library in print and through backdates and online through our Newspaper Resources guide.

Government publications: Many such reports and documents are available online through trusted websites such as the U.S. GPO and United States Census Bureau. States and local municipalities also publish information online.

Audiovisual resources: Videos, DVDs, books on CD and audio CDs are available to check out at your campus libraries. MCTC Library also provides online A/V resources such as Encyclopedia Britannica Media Collection and Library of Congress Digital Collection.

Primary documents: These include photographs, letters, diaries, speeches and other first-hand accounts (see boxes below). 

Various websites: Try to determine who is producing the information. Wikipedia is a source to be used cautiously and is best used for finding original sources listed at the end of each article for further reference. 

Personal Interviews: There may be times when you will need to interview someone with specific, first-hand knowledge to gather information. An interview should be cited in academic papers you write for college. 

Whatever sources you use, be sure to include the correct citation of each source within your paper and on your works cited page!