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Archival Research

A guide to help you understand archives and primary sources and how to incorporate them into your research.

About this Section

Use this section and its resources to learn about the definition of "Primary Resource," why archives have them, how to use them, how to find them, and how to analyze them.

What are Primary Resources?

Primary Resources: objects which provide first-hand accounts or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation

  • Includes all mediums (physical and digital)
  • Includes all formats (documents, books, objects, institutional records, audiovisual materials, photographs, etc.)
  • Can be used to support research in all subject areas and disciplines
  • Can be used to inspire creativity for your original work 


Step 1: Locate Primary Resources

Finding Archives and Libraries with primary resources

Online Access to Primary Resources

Local Collections

National Collections

Step 2: Document Analysis

Once primary resources are located, apply document analysis skills to deduce meaning.

"Document analysis is a key skill in historical interpretation. It is not a mere summary or description of what happened, but rather an analysis of the motivation, intent and purpose of a document within a particular historical context." [source]

Step 3: Writing

Step 4: Citing Sources