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Research Process :: Step by Step

When evaluating the quality of the information you are using, it is useful to identify if you are using a primary, secondary, or tertiary source. By doing so, you recognize if the author is reporting on his/her own first-hand experiences or relying on the views of others.

Primary Sources :: Defined

Primary sources provide firsthand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic or question under investigation. They are usually created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring.

"Primary sources . . . are defined as the direct evidence of a time and place that you are studying – any material (documents, objects, etc.) that was produced by eyewitnesses to or participants in an event or historical moment under investigation. Secondary sources, in contrast, are interpretations – often generated by scholars – that are based upon the examination of multiple primary sources." (from Primary

Types of Primary Sources

What types of primary sources might have been produced that would be relevant to your topic?

Which persons or organizations might have produced materials?

Possible formats include:

  • Books
  • Photographs, images
  • Magazines, newspapers
  • Advertisements
  • Movies, videos, DVDs
  • Memoirs, diaries, journals
  • Audio recordings
  • Interviews, letters, speeches
  • Research data, statistics
  • Documents produced by organizations
  • Documents produced by government agencies



Find Primary Sources

On the 6th floor of Central Library, Special Collections specializes in (PRINT) historical materials relating to

  • Texas
  • the U.S. War with Mexico (1846-1848)
  • the cartographic (maps) history of Texas and the Gulf of Mexico
  • Mexico from 1810-1920.

Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO)

(TARO) contains Special Collections' detailed guides. (SEARCH FOR: University of Texas at Arlington Library, Special Collections in drop down menu)


The New York Times (1851-2007)
Offers full-page and article images with search-able full-text back to the first issue.

Dallas Morning News Historical Archive(1885-1984) 
Important resource for Texas History.

Chicago Defender (1956-1973)
The Chicago Defender has been a leading voice of the black community, with more than two-thirds of its readership outside Chicago. A full-image is provided for the newspaper.

Here are some of the maps from Special Collections