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HIST 301: The Historian’s Craft: Reading, Research and Writing History

This is a course guide for students enrolled in History 301 at California State University Northridge.

What is a Primary Source?

Finding Primary Source Content from Historical Newspapers, Documents, Correspondence, Etc.

Examples of Primary Sources

Primary sources are first-hand accounts of an event or time in history that has yet to be interpreted by another person.

Examples of primary sources include:

  • diaries, journals, letters, interviews, speeches, memos, manuscripts and other first-person accounts
  • memoirs and autobiographies
  • official records such as government publications, census data, court reports, police records
  • minutes, reports, correspondence of an organization or agency
  • newspaper and magazine articles written during the time of the event
  • photographs, paintings, film and television programs, audio recordings which document an event
  • research such as opinion polls which document attitudes and thought during the time of an event
  • artifacts such as objects, tools, clothing, etc. of the time period or eve+

Examples of Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are scholarly monographs or articles that are based on primary source data and analyze, critique, report, summarize, interpret, or restructure that data. They can also be based on a reading of other secondary sources or a combination of primary source data and secondary sources.

Examples of secondary sources include:

  • reference books such as encyclopedias, bibliographies, handbooks, etc.
  • reviews
  • textbooks
  • most scholarly books
  • most journal and magazine articles

Online Archive of California

The Online Archive of California (OAC) is a searchable database that includes finding aids for archival and primary source collections at more than 200 libraries, special collections, archives, historical societies, and museums in California, including Special Collections & Archives in the Oviatt at CSUN.

After searching, you can limit your search results by holding institution, so you can see everything on your topic at other repositories in Los Angeles (UCLA, Occidental, Loyola Marymount, etc.) that have contributed finding aids to the OAC.

Document Reader