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Library FAQs (prior to COVID19)

Answers to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the Library and its resources. #LibraryFAQ

What is a primary source? How can I identify and find primary sources?

Primary sources are sometimes described as the “raw materials” of history. They are documents that were created during the time period you are researching and provide an original viewpoint on that period. By contrast, most of the materials we use for research are secondary sources, which were created after-the-fact, often by scholars and historians. Note, however, that different academic disciplines think about primary sources differently. For example, scholarly journal articles don’t usually count as primary sources for historians, but some scholarly articles (such as drug trials or other original research studies) are primary sources in sociology, psychology, and other scientific disciplines. To learn more about primary sources, check out this video from Hartness Library (runs 3:17 minutes).

Some journal databases allow you to search specifically for primary source documents. If you are writing a history paper, you may wish to UNSELECT “Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals” when searching for primary documents: since peer-reviewed articles are almost exclusively secondary sources in the field of history, having both these options selected at the same time will probably not yield any search results.

Tags: research, primary sources, search strategies, databases, articles, evaluating sources

How can I tell if this source is good?

It is very important to critically examine the resources you find when conducting research, especially on the Internet. Many professors will insist that you only use credible, reliable sources when writing your papers. Our Unlocking Research guide provides a guide to help you assess the books, articles and websites you find.

Tags: research, evaluating sources, online resources

What counts as a "scientific journal"? Is there a difference between scholarly, academic, and scientific journals?

A scientific journal is an academic publication that reports on new research conducted by scholars in a specific field. “Scholarly”, “academic”, and “scientific” journals are all names for the same thing. To access articles from scientific journals, you can search the library’s databases, found under the “Find Articles” tab on the library homepage. Both ProQuest Research Library and Gale Academic OneFile are particularly good sources for scholarly articles.

Tags: research, journals, research, periodicals, databases, articles