Know Where to Go: Primary Sources

Mar 3, 2021 14:17 · 3308 words · 16 minute read

hi welcome to today’s library workshop knowing where to go: primary sources i can start um hi everyone my name is Grace Therrell, i use she/her pronouns and i am an online learning librarian at ut libraries um that is my contact information, my email address if you have questions after today. And hi my name is Charissa Powell, i use she/her pronouns, i am the student success librarian for information literacy; i’m also the liaison to first year compositions 101, 102, and my email is charissa [at] utk.

edu okay so here are the things we’re going to talk about today kind of an outline for the next half hour um first we’re going to talk about what a primary source is, kind of define that, then we’re going to talk a little bit about how to incorporate primary sources into your assignment, so we’ll do a small activity where we’re thinking about when we would use a specific primary source. Third we’re going to look at where to find primary sources so when you kind of have an idea of what you want to find we’re going to talk about how to find those on the library website and then finally we’re going to go over some resources and how you can get help with primary source research and then other research after today and i’m going to turn over to Charissa to get it started.

All right so what is a primary source? If you are here joining us today for a course if you wouldn’t mind popping in to chat what class you’re here for um primary sources are sometimes also used for a synonym for archival research so some examples of those we’ll be going over in the next slide but essentially it is a direct record of an event or subject and comparing that to a secondary source which is more so um used to analyze, interpret, or synthesize information from something that has already happened so some a secondary source is more so something that has happened and been published far after the fact.

This can be a little relative though there’s like a lot of gray matter for so many things for example a book is generally categorized as a secondary source unless you’re talking about how a book was received, so reviews written at the time could then be a primary source. So if that’s a little confusing to you you’re in good company and during this workshop we’ll be trying to go over how to make it less confusing. When in doubt you are welcome to reach out to your professor they are really the um the person that will be creating your assignment if this is work for an assignment and so you’ll always want to double check with them.

So i want to share a few examples of primary sources just to get your brain space turning some examples could be advertisements, blogs, diaries, interview entries, letters, maps, newspaper articles - later on in this session we’ll be looking specifically about how to find a newspaper source but we have resources to find all of these a few other potential primary sources could be objects, photos, political cartoons, some types of videos - again that’s kind of like books there’s some gray matter - speeches, tweets, and art.

So these are just a few examples; there is always a case to be made for something could or could not be a primary source we would love to hear from you about which of these you think would be a good primary source to pick so Amber has put a link in chat to a padlet so if you could click there and i will open it up in my other tab so for this we have pulled a few examples um we’re going to pretend that the epidemic we’re researching is HIV/AIDS epidemic we have put some examples of a magazine, a newspaper, an oral history, and a photograph, so we would love to hear from you which one of these you would choose and why.

You can click on the photo as a preview of that item - the link depending whether or not you’re on campus you might have to log in with your netid and password so take a minute or so you can write your comment you can heart or unheart which one you think would be most useful and then comment why and again the link to this is in padlet seeing some action here it looks like the newspaper is fairly popular also looks like we have a like for the oral history um so we have a comment “i would choose newspapers as primary sources because i have many details” yeah i think newspapers do have a lot of details um and are very good for like factual information or historical like historical accounts of what happened um how things were being reported those kinds of things maybe some data um so yeah anything so for the sake of the recording i am going to click on the newspaper so they can see a preview of it yeah for our viewers watching later on um this is just a brief oh if it would load who knows okay here we go um so this is the this is the times um this is actually the London Times so gone international and the art the part of it was taking AIDS seriously so this whole thing is not the whole article but the scan is the whole front page just as fyi thank you for sharing that, making it larger i’m also seeing some comments for our photograph could be good depending on what you’re looking for i think that’s a great point but not every research topic is going to lend itself to certain primary sources another person said using voices of people at the time could be very helpful and again for the recording uh this is the photo we have in question yeah there also seem to be a couple of hearts on the oral history but no explanation i’m just curious if anybody who liked it added a heart has any has a little bit of an explanation as to why they would think an oral history oh excellent um remembering the time period memory could be distorted by passage of time or urge to reframe things.

Fascinating i was actually going to say something about pulling it up there it is um yeah so this specific um oral history could yeah it could be someone remembering the time period um and yes memory could be distorted when was this published i am now looking at well this was published in 1981 um which is from the research i was doing i don’t think it’s too far oh interviews conducted in 1993. this is a great question um so the interview was in 1993 and i think they were reflecting on something happening in the early 80s from my my summation of this excellent yeah so i think that’s definitely a fair um a fair point to bring up is that memory could be distorted um and there could be some things it also depends on why you’re wanting to use that source, right, so if you’re wanting something that’s really factual or something that seems to be more objective and not as much from a personal viewpoint you would probably want to go for something more like a magazine or newspaper or just like a more generally more information based and informational resource um but if you really wanted that personal perspective, if you’re wanting to see how people reacted um and kind of that personal aspect even though this oral history um i believe was from someone um who is involved on the um the medical side of things he’s still a person who was involved in what was going on um so as long as you kind of tease out the purpose of why you’re wanting to use it and if that personal perspective is really important then i think this would be a really great resource to use something that’s really interesting to note is that no one has chosen to use the magazine article and just for folks here this is jet magazine and it’s about let me see if i can pull it up uh it’s fear of AIDS causes crisis in blood banks um so i would love to hear from folks here maybe about why they wouldn’t choose this one it’s the only it’s the only primary source here that has not been chosen so i’m intrigued so you can also comment on this one why you wouldn’t choose it i’m going to open up the full thing so it’s a little easier to see so this is jet magazine from 1985 includes a photograph and includes an interview so Grace, do you have like inklings about why this might not have been chosen yeah oh here we go yeah there we go choose the magazine cover oh interesting yeah that’s another like again photographic resource um i think there’s probably i’m trying to think back to like when i’ve ever done primary source research or have or talked about primary sources when i was um in school and doing research with those and i want to say that i think there is sometimes a perception that magazines are like less credible resources or reliable resources than newspapers um and i feel like kind of as as we’ve talked about as we talked about the oral history as someone even mentioned with the photograph like it can depend can be good and depends on what you’re looking for.

Same thing with magazine articles so just because a magazine article is you know is what it is or you know wherever it was published doesn’t mean that it’s not a good or credible or reliable resource so um i think that can sometimes get lodged into our brains maybe what we’ve been told is a reliable and unreliable resource um and especially with primary sources a lot of it really depends on the purpose that you’re using it for and kind of what you’re wanting the source to do in your research so um so yeah using part of the magazine like the cover you could even go into the article and i see someone said you could get some good quote quotes from it which you definitely could so um yeah primary source research is largely about purpose and how you’re going to incorporate it anything well yeah this has been very eye opening and again these are only four types of primary sources we wanted to you know it would take much longer to go through all the other ones we talked about but um this is a note that these are not limiting to the types of sources you can use these were just a few examples of one we wanted to show so thank you for sharing why um why and how you would use some of these all right so where would you get started um so we’ve talked a little bit about what a primary source is, we’ve talked through like how to use some, why would you you would use some over another.

We have a lot of different primary resources available to you so i’m going to walk you through how to use one and then Grace is going to leave us with some ways to get help after today so again this is only one workshop on primary sources we don’t expect you to have it all figured out from this one workshop but we want to get you started so if you were to go to lib. utk. edu this is the library’s home page from here you would go to articles and databases after you would click on that Amber is going to pop things in chat because she’s amazing from there you would see that we categorize our databases a few different ways we have some most popular ones you can also go by subject because we’re talking about primary sources i would suggest clicking on primary sources from there i wanted to point out that we have about 75 databases for primary sources and again these are just ones that we own or subscribe to you are welcome to look through all 75; there’s typically a little blurb about the database to give you some insight about if that relates to your topic if it has a time period that you’re researching here you can see that American Periodicals is from 1740 to 920 1920 and so if you were researching something from the 1950s you would not go to this database i’m going to be showing something from gale primary resources which is a database i really enjoy and so if we clicked there you would get a page that looks like this.

there’s a few different ways to search; you can do a pretty basic search like the one i’m going to do or you can do an advanced search and just go wild. You can also just browse and so if you’re kind of not really sure what you’re looking for you can look around but if we typed in HIV/AIDS like we’re going to pretend we’re still doing that same topic from the padlet i wanted to point out that gale primary resources does have several different types of primary resources within it; we’ve got monographs, manuscripts, newspapers, magazines some archives from unbound journals newspapers, so there’s a lot of different things going on here you can also filter by publication date by like document type so there’s a lot of different options here so i’m going to pretend that we were looking for that same newspaper article and looking through here it would tell us that this was published on Tuesday, November 11 1986 it’s from the times in London and you could look through that way so those were just a few quick steps about how i found that newspaper article i do want to leave you that searching for primary sources is very much a trial and error process there are many times when i’m helping a student or looking for primary sources myself that you have to really like switch out your keywords and synonyms and we have another workshop recording about that sometimes the thing you’re looking for hasn’t been digitized yet so maybe that’s only the physical copy and it’s in another country and you can’t get to it um maybe the thing you’re looking for is in a language and it hasn’t been translated to a language you understand and read so there’s a lot of trial and error and it can sometimes feel frustrating but i want you to know that there’s a lot of resources here to help you through some of those setbacks and if one database isn’t working for you try another one again i just looked at one in 75 and so if you’re like oh the newspaper database is not doing it for me i’m gonna go try to find a photograph to try to like find other things but uh Grace is gonna leave us with some things we can do after today to get help yeah so there are so many ways that you can get help with primary source research we have lots of different options available for you um whether you want to talk with a person, whether you want to just kind of dig around on your own um and Amber just put a link to all of the links that are listed on that slide um so you can kind of take a look around see what those are the first is the primary source research guide which you can find on the library website um and this is create this was created uh primarily for english 102 but has a lot of really good resources for just starting out with primary source research kind of lists things out by topic um so if there’s a topic that you’re looking at and you’re interested to see where you could find primary sources on those topics that’s a really good place to go and again just a good place to start if you’re starting out any archival or primary source research then we also have a tutorial on primary and secondary sources um this tutorial is interactive it takes i think maybe around 10 or 15 minutes to complete but if you’re wanting an interactive learning experience, you’re wanting to kind of dig more into the differences between what a primary and secondary source are, when you would use them that’s a really good tool for you and again the link for that is in the chat if you are with us currently if you are watching this later on that link is there on the slide for you to type in and then finally um there’s a printable guide to primary source research and this kind of just lays out again what a primary source is and also questions to consider as you’re starting primary source research um and just kind of a quick something that you can look at if you need more help or a little bit more guidance.

Finally you can chat with us on the library website um and that is if you have questions about primary sources, if you started to look for some and you can’t find any, if you’re just a little bit overwhelmed and you’re like i have no idea where to start; i need help um you can chat with us on the library website and there will be somebody there to be able to help you walk you through a database if you need help with that um trying to figure out what primary sources like what kinds of primary sources would be good for your research um so again we do have that option for you all of these links will be in the description of the youtube video as well thank you Amber for letting us know that um so if you are watching this in the future on youtube um you should be able to look in the description box and all the links for these resources will be there as well.

All right so i think that’s all we’ve got for today thank you all so much for joining us um Amber’s also going to post a link for um this survey if you need i think an attendance a record of attendance and that should be there and also that’s just a place for you to share your thoughts on our workshop today um we’re also having a workshop next week about archival research and those are going to be primary sources that you can find within utk’s special collections so that will be really fun; we’ll have somebody from special collections who’s going to talk you talk with you about archival research so if that’s something you’re interested in if you want to learn more about specific primary resources at ut definitely check out that workshop coming next week all right i don’t know if Charissa has anything else to add before you wrap up she says no all right um okay so thank you all so much for joining us today um we are going to stop the recording and enter into a Q&A so if you have questions about primary sources you can feel free to let us know those but yeah thanks so much.