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Primary sources are the raw materials of historical research - they are the documents or artifacts closest to the topic of investigation. Often they are created during the time period which is being studied (correspondence, diaries, newspapers, government documents, art) but they can also be produced later by eyewitnesses or participants (memoirs, oral histories). You may find primary sources in their original format (usually in an archive) or reproduced in a variety of ways: books, microfilm, digital, etc.
Secondary sources are interpretations of events written after an examination of primary sources and usually other secondary sources, such as books and journal articles.
When you write a research paper, you are creating a secondary source!
These online collections include digital versions of many out-of-copyright works including government documents, historical magazines and other periodicals, and books published before 1923. Coverage can be spotty, but these sites are worth searching... just in case.
Books in libraries are assigned one or more subject headings. These are standardized terms that ensure books on the same topic can be found even if the keywords are different.
Doing an "Exact Search" in GIL using a basic or broad subject heading will give you a list of subcategories for that subject.
Examples of broad subject headings:
"Sources", "Correspondence," "Diaries," "Maps," etc. are good indicators that an item is a primary source.
When you find a good book, look at its subject headings in the catalog record. Follow these to list other items on that topic. Or, use the subject heading terms in a new keyword search.
See the Historical Newspaper Holdings guide for more information about the GSU Library's historical newspaper holdings and on how to search for specific newspapers.
Many libraries and organizations are making digital materials available online.
To find these collections, use this search string in Google or another search engine, in addition to keywords relevant to your topic, for example:
digital collection library site:.edu slavery Georgia
You can also try the same search limiting to site:org rather than site:edu BUT:
EDU = educational institution
ORG = organization, which can mean almost ANY kind of noncorporate organization. If you aren't familiar with the organization, do some research on it! Who are they? What do they promote? Are they reliable?
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The Library of Congress has also assembled this list of state digital libraries. Check the list for Georgia, or check out the Multi-State options.
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These links are from our general Geography guide. Check out the "Find Maps" tab there for more information.