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How to Find: Primary sources

How to find

Primary sources



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. 


Some examples of primary sources are as illustrated below.






Note: 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. 


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. The databases listed below have many primary sources including maps, images, interviews, newsreels, and much more.



Other sources


Tips for finding 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 Finding journal articles guide below.


Many databases feature an Advanced Search option which allows you to find original research articles by limiting your search to publication type or research methodology. Look for limits such as research articles, clinical trials, comparative study etc. 


You can also find original research articles by adding keywords such as methods, results or study to your search.


Evaluating information


It is important to evaluate the information you discover on the Internet. Check out the Library's guide below for more information.