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SSI2-149: Creationism v. Evolutionism: Finding Primary Sources

Primary Sources

Primary sources are anything created during the time period under consideration:  published books; unpublished letters; photographs or drawings; music or song lyrics; clothing; objects of everyday life; etc.

Digital Primary Source Collections

Academic libraries and historical museums often try to digitize primary source collections held in their archives and special collections in order to make them available to the widest possible audience.

Using Organization Websites as Primary Sources

You can analyze and interpret the websites (or portions of websites) of organizations or advocacy groups as primary source materials.


Strategies for Identifying Primary Sources

  • Aim for a variety of materials that will provide multiple perspectives on your topic.  In practice, this means using a variety of search strategies and more than one repository or database.
  • Consult the notes and bibliographies of recently published, good historical monographs and relevant scholarly articles. 
  • Use the author search function in Primo.  You can use "corporate authors" to find writings published by government entities, businesses, or groups.
  • Look for scholarly editions of primary sources, or for "documentary histories" that include a selection of primary sources accompanied by scholarly annotations.
  • Use Library of Congress Subject Headings--especially the subheadings most frequently associated with primary sources.

Search Primo

Search Collins+Summit+Articles

Library of Congress Subject Headings for Primary Sources

Books in Primo are assigned Library of Congress Subject Headings.  In many ways, subject headings are a form of tagging, in that they represent the content of the material and provide ways for you to efficiently locate more materials that are conceptually related. 

Library of Congress Subject Headings are also quite useful for discovering primary sources. The following subheadings usually are added to indicate that the material is a primary source: sources, personal narratives, correspondence, diaries, manuscripts, or notebooks.  Topics that generate heated debate may be cataloged with the subheading: controversial literature. Once you've discovered the subject heading for secondary sources, try adding one of the primary source subheadings to see what you find. 

Author-Title Searches

If you have specific authors and/or titles, it's usually smarter to do an advanced search in Primo:

Dawkins, Richard, The God Delusion

Remember that groups can function as authors, too:

Creation Research Society


Newspapers & Magazines

Historians use newspapers as primary sources.  Depending on their research questions, they may analyze all parts of a newspaper:  articles, editorials, reviews, analysis, and advertisements.

Laws, Legislation, Court Rulings, Legal Literature