Skip to main content

History & Political Science

A guide for finding and using history & political science information


The pages on this guide will point you to some useful resources for your research on topics in history and political science.  The tabs across the top of the page provide information on a variety of resources you may utilize during the research process. 

Historical research is necessary for both understanding past events and providing context for the present through the examination and interpretation of the evidence surrounding past events. The researcher/historian must then interpret the events, making note of bias and factual "inconsistencies", to find meaning and provide analysis for impact on present day events and issues.  [Research and Documentation in the Electronic Age, Fifth Edition, by Diana Hacker and Barbara Fister, Bedford/St. Martin, 2010]

Please contact a librarian with questions regarding the research process, locating the sources you need, and assistance in formatting reference citations.

Historical Evidence: Primary Sources


Correspondence (letters, e-mail, etc.)


Presidential Papers

Government Documents

Original documents (birth certificate, marriage license, trial transcript)


Interviews (face-to-face, recorded)

Proceedings of conferences, symposia

Minutes of meetings

College catalogs

Records of organizations


Survey research (market surveys, public opinion polls)

Music composition/scores

Newspaper articles written at the time

Works of literature (i.e., The Lord of the Rings, Moby Dick, Good Earth)


Secondary sources provide context and meaning, through analysis, commentary and interpretation of persons and events. Both primary and secondary sources are needed in historical research.

Whereas an autobiography is a primary source, a biography is a secondary source. A government report may be a primary source; a newspaper article may be a secondary source. See the chart below for more examples.




Works of art and architecture

Audio recordings (i.e., radio programs)

Cookery (dishes, utensils, etc.)

Farming/Construction tools



Medical/Scientific instruments

Loading ...

Chart of Primary and Secondary Sources by Discipline

The chart below was created by the Libraries at Indiana University Bloomington on its guide for  Identifying Primary & Secondary Sources. The chart illustrates possible uses of primary and secondary sources by discipline:

Discipline Primary Source Secondary Source
Archaeology farming tools treatise on innovative analysis of neolithic artifacts
Art sketch book conference proceedings on French Impressionist
History Emancipation Proclamation (1863) book on the anti-slavery struggle
Journalism interview biography of publisher Katherine Meyer Graham
Law legislative hearing law review article on anti-terrorism legislation
Literature novel literary criticism on The Name of the Rose
Music score of an opera biography of composer Georges Bizet
Political Science public opinion poll newspaper article on campaign finance reform
Rhetoric speech editorial comment on Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech
Sociology voter registry Ph.D. dissertation on Hispanic voting patterns

Other Examples:

Discipline                         Primary source                                                                   Secondary source

Education                        Test scores                                                                          biography of John Dewey

Religion                           Bible (other sacred scripture, such as the Qu'ran)          Bible Commentary (commentary on other text)