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How to Find

What is a primary source?

A primary source provides a first hand account of a topic. Primary sources report on events or discoveries, or share new information. They are original materials which have not been filtered or changed through interpretation, condensation or even evaluation by a second party. In contrast, secondary sources are not original sources of information; instead they describe, analyse, summarise or discuss the information from primary sources. 


Image: Old letters by jarmoluk CCO

Journal articles can be primary or secondary sources. Original research articles that provide a detailed account of research activity, written by the scientists who conducted the research, are primary sources. 

Primary sources include material such as:

  • Journal articles which report the original results of experimental research
  • Conference papers and proceedings
  • News reports
  • Sets of data, such as census statistics
  • Historical or government documents
  • Photographs and works of art
  • Performances
  • Interviews and speeches
  • Surveys and fieldwork
  • Diaries, letters and stories
  • Social media content
  • Recordings, e.g. video, audio.

Why use primary sources?

Primary sources are valuable for a number of reasons. They:

  • Supply the results of scientific research as first reported
  • Can offer an inside view of a particular event
  • Provide insights into how people view their world at a particular time
  • Serve as the raw material for further research.

Where can I find primary sources?

Library Catalogue:

Many primary sources can be found in the Curtin Library Catalogue, including newspaper articles, images, government documents, and research datasets. You can use the options under Resource Type to limit your search to specific types of primary source material.


Library databases:

Some library databases include primary source content. For example:


Other sources:

Tips for finding original research articles

Primary sources (especially in the sciences) include original research articles that are published in journals and provide a detailed account of the research by those who conducted it. Original research articles can be found in the Library Catalogue and Databases. For general information on finding journal articles in the Library catalogue and databases refer to the following guide:

HINT: Many databases feature an Advanced limits section, which will allow you to find original research articles by limiting to publication type or research methodology. Look for limits such as clinical trial, research article, comparative study, etc. You can also add keywords such as methods, results or study to your search to find original research articles. 

Evaluating information

It's important to evaluate the information you discover on the Internet. Learn more via our guide: