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

Primary Sources & Types

Primary sources are those which recorded an event as it occurred or very soon after. Some examples are listed below and in the tabs at the top of this box:

  • Autobiographies
  • Correspondence (letters, e-mail, etc.)
  • Diaries/Journals
  • Presidential Papers
  • Government Documents
  • Original documents (birth certificate, marriage license, trial transcript)
  • Speeches
  • Interviews (face-to-face, recorded)
  • Proceedings of conferences, symposia
  • Minutes of meetings
  • College catalogs
  • Records of organizations
  • Patents
  • Survey research (market surveys, public opinion polls)
  • Music composition/scores
  • Newspaper articles written at the time (i.e., a New York Times article on the Battle of Bull Run)
  • Works of literature (i.e., The Lord of the Rings, Moby Dick, Good Earth)

Additional Resources:

How to Read a Primary Source

Using Primary Sources

Why Use Primary Sources

Secondary Sources 

Secondary sources provide context and meaning, through analysis, commentary and interpretation of persons and events as recording primary texts. 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.

Photographs

Maps

Video

Works of art and architecture

Audio recordings (i.e., radio programs)

Cookery (dishes, utensils, etc.)

Farming/Construction tools

Clothing

Coins/Currency

Medical/Scientific instruments

Loading ...

Primary & 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:

Chart of Discipline-related Primary & Secondary Sources
Discipline Primary Source Secondary Source
Archaeology Farming tools Treatise on Innovative Analysis of Neolithic Artifacts
Art Sketch book Conference Proceedings on French Impressionist
Education Test scores Biography of John Dewey
History Emancipation Proclamation (1863) Non-fiction Book on the Underground Railroad
Journalism Interview Biography of Publisher Katherine Meyer Graham
Law Legislative hearing Law Review Article on Anti-Terrorism Legislation
Literature Novel Critical Commentary Article on "The Name of the Rose"
Music Opera score Biography of Composer Ludwig van Beethoven
Political Science Public opinion poll Newspaper Article on Campaign Finance Reform
Psychology Research article on the affect of emotions on brain development Biography of Carl Jung
Religion Sacred texts (Bible, Torah, Qu'ran, etc.) Commentary on the Sacred Texts
Rhetoric/Communication Gettysburg Address Commentary on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech"
Sociology Voter registry Ph.D. Dissertation on Hispanic Voting Patterns

 

Locating Primary and Secondary Sources

When searching the library system for books and other media select the "Advanced Search" option. Below are some sample searches:

"United States" AND "Popular Culture" AND Sources

"United States" AND "Popular Culture" AND Baseball

Here are a couple of book sources to help you get started:

The Greenwood Guide to American Popular Culture

American Popular Culture: A Guide to the Reference Literature

When searching for journal articles, use the Research tab from the library's main page. Select the option for Databases A to Z. Select either All EBSCO or All ProQuest. Sources pulled will be both primary and secondary sources. You can also filter the search to locate only scholarly or peer-reviewed sources using the filters to the left of the search results.

Another helpful resource are the list of references/sources at the end of books and articles. Use these lists of sources to help you locate additional sources on your topic. 

Contact a librarian if you have questions or need assistance!