The Interplay of Primary and Secondary Sources

  • If you're searching for primary sources on a topic, one good place to look is a secondary source that cites original texts, manuscripts, and archives.
  • Conversely, published editions of primary sources will often cite secondary sources for added context, commentary, and history.
  • In particular, critical editions of literary works (primary sources) often have extensive commentary and analysis (i.e., secondary material).

A good starting point for finding both primary and secondary sources is a reference work or bibliography. You can often find reference works in HOLLIS by combining your subject with keywords like Encyclopedia, Guide, Dictionary, Handbook, Companion, or Introduction. I've suggested reference books (or other secondary sources) for each of your topics on this guide.

A Few Extra Tips

► To find subject headings for browsing, bring up the HOLLIS record for a book you already know about; or do a keyword search for your topic, such as Indigenous religion or Agrarian reform or War on drugs. (This is how I found some of the subject headings suggested on the following pages.)

► Use the Advanced Search in HOLLIS to combine a subject heading with other keywords, e.g.

  • Subject Food sovereignty + Keyword Peru
  • Subject Argentina Coup d'etat + Keyword media

► If the HOLLIS record for a book doesn't tell you enough about its contents, try searching for the book in Google Books. Even if the entire text is not available, you can often get a substantial preview, and search by keyword to see if the book mentions a particular topic.

FOR PRIMARY SOURCES:
► When you browse, look for subjects with these subheadings: Diaries • Interviews • Sources • Archival resources • Newspapers • Personal Narratives •  Biography • Pictorial Works • Comic Books • Caricatures and cartoons

FOR LITERARY EXPRESSIONS OF A THEME:
► For novels, plays, and stories about a topic, look for subject headings with these subheadings: Fiction • In Literature • Juvenile fiction • Drama • Poetry • Literary collections

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Steve Kuehler