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Module 1: What are primary sources?

A definition of secondary source

In contrast, a secondary source of information is one that was created later by someone who did not experience first-hand or participate in the events or conditions you’re researching. For the purposes of a historical research project, secondary sources are generally scholarly books and articles. Also included would be reference sources like encyclopedias.

For example, the book University of Illinois, 1894-1904: The Shaping of the University , published in 2000, could be used as a secondary source to learn about the UI around the turn of the twentieth century.

For secondary sources, often the best sources are those that have been published most recently. If you use a secondary source that was published decades ago, it is important to know what subsequent scholars have written on the topic and what criticism they have made about the earlier work or its approach to the topic.


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Front cover of the book

Solberg, Winton U. University of Illinois , 1894-1904: The Shaping of the University (Urbana and Chicago : University of Illinois Press, 2000). Cover graphic used with permission.

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