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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

History 200: Nationalism in Theory and History

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Primary vs secondary sources

Historical research often involves cycling between primary sources (the texts and other materials created in the historical period you are studying) and secondary sources (texts that attempt to explain, interpret, or narrate the past). You may start by learning about the period through your assigned (secondary source) readings, then spend time with some interesting primary sources, then search for secondary sources to help you understand and interpret the primary sources. 

The research tools, databases, collections of sources, and suggestions on this research guide will help you find both primary and secondary sources.

Subject Specialist Librarians

Subject specialist librarians are eager to assist you with your library research, and in most cases can save you a lot of time, especially if you meet with them early in order to plan out your research strategy.

The subject librarian for history is Celestina Savonius-Wroth. Contact her by email,, to schedule a consultation or to send her a question about your research project.

Please check the list of Subject Specialists to find out who specializes in other areas related to your project. For example, Cindy Ingold is the Political Science librarian. If your research focuses on Asia, Africa, the Middle East, or Eastern Europe, the librarians in the International and Area Studies Library can help you get started and also track down difficult-to-find sources.

Background information