General Research tutorials that guide you through the research proccess from beginning to end.
Working through the Research Process
Primary vs. Secondary Sources
A primary source is an original object or document -- the raw material or first-hand information.
Primary sources include historical and legal documents, eye witness accounts, results of an experiment, statistical data, pieces of creative writing, and art objects. In the natural and social sciences, the results of an experiment or study are typically found in scholarly articles or papers delivered at conferences, so those articles and papers that present the original results are considered primary sources.
A secondary source is something written about a primary source.
Secondary sources include comments on, interpretations of, or discussions about the original material. You can think of secondary sources as second-hand information. If I tell you something, I am the primary source. If you tell someone else what I told you, you are the secondard source. Secondary source materials can be articles in newspapers or popular magazines, book or movie reviews, or articles found in scholarly journals that evaluate or criticize someone else's original research.
Identify Keywords: Before searching the Library Catalog or other databases, choosing the right keywords is essential. Take a few minutes to write down all the words that describe your topic. Use these words in keyword searches. For more help with search strategies, follow the links below.
Follow the Bibliographic Trail: One proven method for gathering reliable information efficiently is to follow the citations or references from one source to another. Just as internet links take you to other pages or sources recommended by a site's webmaster, the author of a book or article provides a series of notes and/or references in a bibliography designed to lead you to other sources on the topic.
Can't Find Books on Your Topic? Some content on a topic can be hidden in small chunks within general works. For example, there may be a few pages or paragraphs on the rusalki in W. F. Ryan's book Bathhouse At Midnight: An Historical Survey of Magic and Divination in Russia.
Still Can't Find Books Your Topic? Use Worldcat to searching the library cataolgs of other universities; then request to borrow the books through our Interlibrary Loan service.