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WGS 375: Gender, Race, and Class

This guide will provide useful information for completing your assignments in SOCI 263.

What are primary sources?

Many times people talk about finding articles when doing research, but there are many different kinds of resources that can be useful beyond articles. A key distinction to be aware of when thinking about what kind of information you need for your research project is the difference between primary source documents and secondary source documents. 

Primary source documents are first-hand accounts of events that took place in the past. They include things like letters, photographs, diaries, newspaper articles, financial records, emails, social media posts, and reports. They can even include creative works that were written or created at the time being studied. These kinds of documents can help you see the events you're studying from the perspective of people who experienced them. 

Secondary source documents are analyses of events that are written later, by people who did not experience the events. These include things like scholarly books and articles. Usually when you are writing a paper for a class, you are creating a secondary source document, because you are studying something you did not experience and writing about it. 

Where do you find primary sources?

Many libraries collect primary source documents to preserve them and provide access to them. Often, these types of collections are called Special Collections or Archives. Usually an archive will focus on a particular theme or topic. For example, the Sonoma State University Library Special Collections contains many different collections about environmental history and the environmental movement. Other archives may focus on topics like women's history, the history of a particular town or area, or the history of an organization.

Sometimes libraries are able to digitize special collections and make them available globally. While handling historical documents in person can be a remarkable experience, the ability to access collections from around the world is a wonderful tool for researchers. 

We make many different digital collections available for students at SSU. You may want to explore some of these collections when you are investigating your character and the historical issues you're studying in class. 

Some Online Collections of Primary Sources

These collections are just a few of the many primary source collections we provide at SSU. These collections were chosen because they contain material created in the early 20th century, and materials relevant to the social movements you're studying.