For the natural and social sciences, primary sources include the original account of a research study, typically published as an article in a scholarly journal. Find a fuller explanation in the SUNY Albany and Virginia Polytechnic resources below.
For the arts, history, and humanities, original primary source documents usually are housed in museums, archives, restricted library collections, and government offices. Reproductions often can be found in online digital collections, microform collections, books, and other secondary works.
*Young, Heartsill, ed. The ALA Glossary of Library and Information Science. Chicago: American Library Association, 1983, p.176
When evaluating the credibility of most primary sources, consider these questions:
Historian Oscar Handlin advised first considering the language used by the primary source creator and whether meaning and context had changed. Once meaning is clear, what were the creator's capabilities and possible biases?
...consider whether the witness was in a position to know what he was talking about; ...[if] he had the skill and competence to observe accurately; then whether, if he knew the facts, he would be inclined to represent them fairly, or whether circumstances -- emotional, intellectual, political -- might incline him to emphasize some aspects of an episode and minimize others. (p.24)
Handlin, Oscar, et al. Harvard Guide to American History. Cambridge, MA: Belnap Press of Harvard University Press, 1954.
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