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History: Introduction to History

Reference Librarian

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Teresa Morris
she / her / hers
College of San Mateo Library
1700 W. Hillsdale Blvd.
San Mateo, CA 94402

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Welcome to the CSM Library Research Guide for local, California and United States History. Please use the tabs to search for Books, Articles & Databases, and Web Resources. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the CSM Librarians.

Primary and Secondary Resources in History

Primary Source: Created during time of study  Secondary source: Created after the fact

Primary research is the study of history using primary resources. Using these resources, students and scholars strive to find new views of history based on first hand accounts, not other scholars interpretation or analysis of the events. A primary resource for history typically has these characteristics:

  • Created during the time period you're researching.
  • It is the voice of someone who lived during the event.
  • That voice could take many forms including: letters, still or moving images, material culture, emails, lab experiments, autobiographies, newspaper articles, statistics, etc.


Secondary research is the studying history using a combination of primary and secondary sources. A secondary source for history typically has any of these characteristics:

  • Interprets facts based on some primary resources.
  • Its format could be articles, books, still or moving images, websites, statistical analyses.

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