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Use this Find books, articles, databases, and other resources for research in Anthropology.

Primary sources

Primary sources in anthropology can be defined as original, first-hand records of a particular culture, event, or time period. These first-hand records can be contrasted with secondary sources (including many academic articles and books), which provide analysis or interpretation of primary source materials.

Primary sources may include government and legal documents, historical texts (such as letters and diaries), oral histories, photographs, video recordings, artworks, and various archival materials. The original news stories and articles reporting on events are also considered primary sources. Journal articles in the social sciences (including anthropology) that report the results of original research studies can be thought of as primary sources. Finally, scholarly books and book chapters may also provide extensive quotations, narratives, or other data that constitute primary source material.


Secondary sources

Secondary sources are articles that critique, discuss, or analyze a study. Overall, secondary sources talk about the research conducted by someone else.  Secondary sources include encyclopedias, textbooks, and review articles.

If your professor has not specified which sources you should be looking for, feel free to ask.

This text comes from the University of Louisville guide on Archaeology and Anthropology.


  • Which of these two articles is primary and which is secondary?
  • What elements of each helps you to decide?

Finding Primary Sources

Locating primary sources can be challenging. Many sources are only available in print archives, and those sources that have been digitized may not be easy to find. The best strategy is to think through the types of sources you might be interested in and then contact a librarian for assistance. Some questions you might consider:

  • What kind of sources would be helpful? Legal documents? Original news stories? Statistics? What else?
  • What is the scope of my project? Regional? National? International?
  • Do I need information about a specific person or event? What are the key dates or time periods?
  • What organizations and agencies might have produced information related to my research question? Do they post information on the web?

Google can help you (and sometimes frustrate you!) with finding digital archives, repositories, and collections of primary sources. Be sure to try different search terms and look through at least the first full page of results.

This text comes from the University of Louisville guide on Archaeology and Anthropology.