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Identifying Information Sources Online: Primary Sources

Help with determining what type of source you've found online

What's a Primary Source?

A primary source can have a different definition depending on which discipline you are in and depending on your research question. 

In the sciences, primary sources are scientific journal articles that report the results of research studies. 

In other fields, such as history, primary sources are those sources that were created at the time of an event. These include photographs taken of the event, newspaper articles written during the time of the event, diary entries, letters, and ephemera also from the time of the event. 

So, if you were doing research around World War II, newspaper articles written during WWII would be considered primary sources, but a book written in 2000 describing WWII would not be considered a primary source. 

When in doubt, ask a librarian or your instructor. 

Finding Primary Sources Online

Primary sources can be harder to locate online than other types of sources, but they can be easier to identify. 

For scientific journal articles, you should use the library's databases

For other types of primary sources, check out online archives including: 

Online Archive of California

Calisphere

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

Library of Congress Digital Collections

Internet Archive

Cal State East Bay Archives

Did you know that Cal State East Bay also has an archives? 

You can see our digital collections via: 

ScholarWorks (contains theses, dissertations, yearbooks, and catalogs)

Online Archive of California (finding aids and photographs)

Photograph of Warren Hall and Library Courtyard from the University Archives