Pfeiffer University Seal Mary Fisher Floyd Archives & Special Collections
"I love to think of those who have preceeded us, who paved the way for us, and who challenged us." -- Mary Fisher Floyd

Primary Research Information

A primary source is any original material produced during the time period or subject matter under investigation.

Secondary sources are works produced from the study and evaluation of primary sources.

There are even tertiary sources -- materials such as encyclopedias, produced using information contained in secondary sources.

When you use primary sources in writing a research project, your final product is a secondary source for your topic of study.

Primary sources can be in just about any format. An item can be a primary source in one instance and a secondary source in another. Some examples of formats of primary source materials:

Oral histories
Recorded speeches, etc.
Original works of art
Text (printed or published)
Manuscripts and archival collections
Machine-readable computer files

Locating Primary Source Materials at Pfeiffer

The G.A. Pfeiffer Library and the Mary Fisher Floyd Archives and Special Collections have a variety of primary source materials. To identify these sources, first consult Voyager , the library online catalog. Voyager contains information on almost all material located in the library, including archives and manuscript collections, newspapers, and audio- and video-recordings. If you need help, ask a librarian to assist you.

One of the best ways to identify primary sources is to first consult good secondary sources.

  1. Do a keyword or subject search on your topic in Voyager. Then look for a bibliography; often this information is included in the item's record -- it may even tell you the page number(s) where you'll find the list of sources.
  2. You can also look for the words Sources or Bibliography as a subject term.
    For example, you might find:
    North Carolina--History--Sources--Bibliography
    Civil War--History--Sources
    Methodist Church in Indiana--Bibliography
  3. Personal accounts are primary sources. Therefore, look for autobiographies and diaries in Voyager.
  4. The Mary Fisher Floyd Archives and Special Collections have a wealth of primary source materials. The Archives contain historical documents of the University, and the manuscript collections cover a variety of topics. A Subject Guide to the collections is available. More detailed information on individual collections are available in the Mary Fisher Floyd Archives.
  5. Newspapers are an excellent source for personal and contemporary accounts of events.

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