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Primary Sources: How to Use Them and Where to Find Them

Primary Sources: How to Use Them and Where to Find Them

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What is a Primary Source?

A primary source is a first-hand or contemporary account of an event or topic. They are the most direct evidence of a time or event because they were created by people or things that were there at the time or event. These sources have not been modified by interpretation and offer original thought or new information. Primary sources are original materials, regardless of format. Continue reading from Seton Hall University

What is a Finding Aid?

A Finding Aid is a document that describes and lists the contents of an archival collection. They are used to help researchers find what they are looking for. See an example here.

How to Use Special Collections

  • Look through the finding aids on the institution's website to determine which box(es) you want to look at. 
  • Go online and read the institution's Reading Room protocol and procedures closely! Every institution is different. 
  • Request an appointment to look over the material. Walk-ins are generally not able to visit.
  • When you go to look over the materials, follow the reading room protocol closely. If you are uncertain about anything, ask staff to assist.