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ENG 102 Ghost Stories: Summer II 2019

In Her Words

Researching Ghosts

Primary Sources
Primary sources can be either published or unpublished, and can be found in many formats, such as manuscripts, books, microfilm, photographs, video and sound recordings. Some primary sources are available in more than one format -- for example, a collection of manuscript letters may also have been published in book form, or may have been digitized and made available on the Internet. Begin by asking two basic questions:

  • What evidence was created?
  • What evidence was saved, and where?

What evidence was created?

For the most part, the evidence used by historians to answer historical questions was not created for that purpose. The evidence of the past -- official records, personal papers, videorecordings, physical remains -- was created to serve the purposes of people with very different agendas. Nonetheless, it is very useful to think about some broad categories of evidence, in part because understanding these categories can help you find the material you need.

What evidence was saved, and where?

Think about who might have collected the material you're hoping to find:

  • Published primary sources like newspapers, books, and government reports are likely to be held in libraries.
  • Personal papers, diaries, and materials related to local history are likely to be held in local libraries or historical societies.
  • Museum, archives and libraries all have collections of art and artifacts as well a written records.

Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources 
Secondary sources are 
one step removed from primary sources, though they often quote or otherwise use primary sources. They can cover the same topic, but add a layer of interpretation and analysis. Secondary sources can include:

  • Books and Encyclopedias about a topic.
  • Scholarly or other articles about a topic, especially by people not directly involved.
  • Documentaries (though they often include photos or video portions that can be considered primary sources).