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HIST 5388: Public History - East Texas History

Use this guide to explore east Texas and local history resources as well as the study of public history.

Special Collections Librarian

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Trent Shotwell
Contact:
Thomason Room - NGL 4th Floor
936-294-3290

History Librarian

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Erin Owens
Contact:
Pronouns: she/her/hers
ORCID: 0000-0001-9520-9314
936-294-4567
eowens@shsu.edu
NGL 223D

What are Primary Sources?

Primary sources convey first-hand experience of the event or time period you’re studying.

Secondary sources convey the experiences of others, or “second-hand” information; they often synthesize a collection of primary sources.

 

There's also a third group called tertiary sources, which are like "third-hand" information; they usually synthesize a collection of secondary sources.

PRIMARY Sources:

  • First-hand accounts by people who experienced event.
  • A person's account of own feelings, actions, or experiences.
  • Object or document that comes directly from person, place, or event being researched.

SECONDARY Sources:

  • Second-hand accounts by people who did not experience event.
  • One person's account of someone else's feelings, actions, or experiences.
  • Object or document that originates much later than person, place, or event being researched.
  • Contains INTERPRETATIONS, analysis, synthesis.

Content Versus Format:

  • Is a newspaper always primary, and is a book always secondary? NO.
  • "Primary" and "secondary" relate to the CONTENT, not the format.
  • Primary sources OFTEN appear in document types such as letters and newspapers, but a source doesn't have to be primary just because of its format. The same is true of sources on paper versus sources on the Internet, and sources which are duplicated as they appear (by scanning or photographing) versus sources which are transcribed (retyped word for word in plain text) -- it's the content that counts.

It's All About CONTEXT:

  • There is nothing inherent in a document or object that automatically makes it always be "primary" or "secondary."
  • YOUR RESEARCH QUESTION determines whether the source is primary or secondary for YOUR research.
  • The same document could be a primary source for one paper and a secondary source for another paper.
  • Example: 1975 biography about Abraham Lincoln would probably be a...
    -- Secondary source if you are studying Lincoln’s life.
    -- Primary source if you are studying how people wrote historical biographies in the 1970s.

Texas Primary Source Collections Online

 

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