Resource Evaluation

A guide for evaluating the differences between resources when doing research.

Discipline Examples


Primary Source

Secondary Source


Original artwork

Article critiquing the piece of art


Pioneer diary

Book about the Oregon Trail


Original manuscript

Book review

Political Science report

Newspaper editorial


Journal article reporting research results



Videotape of a  performance

Encyclopedia of drama

Tips to Begin

In order to determine whether an item is Primary of Secondary...

Look at Timing, Purpose and Context of the source

Some information resources could be one or the other
  • Dissertations and Theses
  • Newspaper Articles
  • Magazine or Journal Articles

...this is determined by reading it

Start with the library catalog by searching
  • archives and special collections
  • people, organizations and agencies you have identified as key to your topic

Use Subject Headings

Finding collections of letters, diaries, or oral histories, autobiographies, etc.

Use Subject Headings for your topic and add words like"-diaries", "-personal narratives" (i.e. Spain--History--Civil War, 1936-1939--Personal narratives)


Use subject headings such as:

   American Diaries—Bibliography



Specific Databases Containing Primary Sources