As part of your research for your project or dissertation you will need to access primary sources. These can be held in a variety of collections, locations and sources. This Libguide will help you get started.
Primary sources are documents which were created during particular historical periods, as opposed to secondary sources, which are written at a later date about particular historical periods.
Examples of primary sources are:
The History ELE pages will contain details of specialist sources for your topic area, so don't forget to consult these and the subject experts in the department. Check out this module for useful websites for primary sources and local collections.
There are so many types of primary resources it is important to define your parameters to help you to identify where to search.
Discipline (e.g. art, history, physics, political science) / Topic (e.g. economic, cultural, political, region),
Format (e.g. book, manuscript, map, photograph),
Type of information you need (e.g. numerical data, images, polls, government reports, letters),
The University has access to a wide range of online archival collections. These contain digitised copies of documents, letters, books, photographs and other primary sources. The finding online primary sources page introduces you to the library’s collections. Some archival collections are freely available online. The free resources pages gives you a starting point but is by no means an exhaustive list.
It’s worth remembering that not everything you require will be available online! You may need to make research trips to access print material as well. Don’t forget the Library’s Special Collection department holds primary source material you can use.
To find books written during the time period studied, e.g. what was written about travel during the nineteenth century:
To find autobiographies, diaries, memoirs, letters, interviews, speeches:
Be aware that searching for biography in the any field will result in both biographies and autobiographies.
Secondary sources analyze primary sources, using primary source materials to answer research questions. Secondary sources may analyze, criticize, interpret or summarize data from primary sources.
Examples of secondary sources:
Secondary sources may also be primary sources. For example if someone studies the nature of literary criticism in the 19th century then a literary critque from the 19th century becomes a primary resource.
The Library's Special Collections department houses primary sources in many formats including letters, diaries, manuscripts and photos, which can be accessed via their dedicated reading room in the Research Commons, Old Library.
Use the Archive Catalogue Search to find out what is available.
For more information, visit the webpages.
If you would like to explore the Exeter Cathedral Library Collection you can search both the Library and the Archives.
Two of the best know items in the collections are the Exeter Book of Anglo-Saxon poetry (MS 3501) and the Exon Domesday manuscript (MS 3500). There are, however, many thousands of other items in the collections, which span the 10th century to the present day.
If you would like to know more have a look at their website.