Primary Sources

Primary sources are materials that provide first-hand documentation or knowledge, usually of people, places, events or time periods. Primary sources enable the researcher to trace a research subject to its origin, potentially supporting new interpretations or revealing previously undocumented knowledge of that subject. Just a few examples of primary sources include diaries, oral histories, fossils, DNA, correspondence, speeches, interviews, court cases, or scientific studies. Secondary sources build upon or extrapolate information derived from primary sources, and the distinction between the two can be quite fluid depending on one's area of study. In most contexts, however, a primary source is understood to be a point of origin, or a piece of raw data, for a research subject.

Featured resource

Finding Aid Database
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The Finding Aid Database provides access to a growing number of finding aids for archival and manuscript collections at San Diego State University's Special Collections & University Archives. Finding aids describe the contents of individual collections, including unpublished primary sources such as correspondence, diaries, maps, university records, organizational records, photographs, and audio recordings. Select finding aids also contain digital content such as images and audio/visual files, arranged into "virtual folders." Look for "Online Images/Records" beneath a collection's "Scope and Contents" note to access these materials.
Enter your keywords in the search box at the top of the page, and click 'search.' The Finding Aid Database searches for your keyword in the full text of all finding aids in the database. Search results are provided in expandable categories. To expand a result, click the 'plus box' to the left of the link.

Research assistance

Anna Culbertson
Special Collections & University Archives Librarian
Office: Library Addition 4410A
Phone: (619) 594-6892
aculbertson AT mail DOT sdsu DOT edu
Robert Ray
Special Collections Division Head
Office: Library Addition 4410G
Phone: (619) 594-4303
robert DOT ray AT mail DOT sdsu DOT edu
Reference Desk
General Research Assistance
Location: 1st Floor Library Addition
Phone: (619) 594-6728
eref AT rohan DOT sdsu DOT edu
Special Collections and University Archives
Special Collections Research Assistance
Location: 4th Floor Library Addition
Phone: (619) 594-6791
scref AT rohan DOT sdsu DOT edu