ENG 099: Pre-College Writing

Professor: Tua Nefer

Example of a primary source: The original Gettysburg Address document

This guide is designed to help you research conduct research. It includes an index of scholarly sources that should be used. Included in the list are websites and search engines that will be helpful in your research. If you have any trouble finding these sources, please ask a librarian for help. Good Luck! Any comments or suggestions are welcome!
  • RCC Library Home Page: Most materials found in this research guide are available at the library's home page.
  • whoag@rcc.mass.edu: Please contact me if you have any questions concerning this guide or research.

Primary Sources Defined:

Primary source is an original document or object created at the time or recorded later (in the form of oral history, autobiographies and memoirs) concerning the topic being researched. There are many types of primary sources which include:
  • Books and periodicals (autobiographies, newspaper articles, manuscripts)
  • Original research
  • Pictures
  • Music
  • Government documents
  • Maps
  • Oral history
  • Legal documents
  • Video
  • Art

Secondary Sources Defined:

A secondary source is a work that interprets or analyzes an historical event or phenomenon. It is generally at least one step removed from the event and is often based on primary sources.
  • Books- History books, encyclopedias, scholarly biographies, textbooks.
  • Articles- Literary criticism
  • Web sites

Finding primary sources:
  • Use the library's Online Catalog to find reference materials and books.
  • Search databases for primary source material.
  • Use the Internet to locate and use primary sources. Usually any search engine like AltaVista and Google can be used to find excellent places to start. Examples of a searches would be "slavery primary sources" or "civil rights primary sources".

Using the Internet to find Primary Sources

Example: Zora Neale Hurston

American Memories home page. Type "Zora Neale Hurston" into search box

Results page of the "Zora Neale Hurston" search.

Clicking on the 3rd entry from the result page, we can view the photo.

Example: Amistad
Natinal Archive web site

Click on "The Amistad Case" for primary documents

Primary documents and activities

Click on "19 Century Documents"

Click on "argument of John Quincy Adams" to read document

Complete argument by John Quincy Adams

Selected Primary Source Web Sites

Using Databases to find primary sources

Example: Martin Luther King Jr.

African American Experience home page

From the Advance search page, click on "Documents" and check all boxes

Results page

African American Experience

The African American Experience is the definitive electronic research tool for African American history and culture.

American History Online

Spans more than 500 years of political, military, social, and cultural history, highlighting the important people and events of the American experience. Includes timelines, biographies, primary sources and audio/video files.


The ARTstor Digital Library offers more than one million images in the arts, architecture, humanities, and social sciences with a suite of software tools to view, present, and manage images for research and pedagogical purposes.

Citing Sources: Style Guides

APA Style TutorialDuke Library Guide to Assembling a List of Works CitedLaguardia Community College Library MLA and APA citation styleThe Owl at Purdue: APA Formatting and Style GuideThe Owl at Purdue: MLA 2009 Formatting and Style Guide

Basic Research Help

Please click the Ask a Librarian icon if you have any questions concerning these guides, need help finding material for your research or any general questions you might have.

General Library Information

Research guide prepared on 09/18/11 by Wiliam Hoag: whoag@rcc.mass.edu