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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Law and Public Policy - PS322: Home

Working with Law and Public Policy Resources

Working with Law and Public Policy resources challenges you to explore many different types of materials - primary sources and secondary sources.  You can use the information on these pages as a guide to the wide variety of resources available to you through the University Library.

If you have questions, if you are finding it difficult to discover and locate the materials you need for your research, please don't hesitate to contact the University Library for assistance!

The University Library

Your University Library is the place to go to DISCOVER and LOCATE the materials you need for your research.  We are sometimes very difficult to navigate, and often speak a language that is a little unfamiliar to the student.  If you have having problems using the University Library, try some of the following links for more information.

The Basics of Finding Books

The Basics of Finding Articles

The Basics of Using the Library

Other General Information

or go to Ask-A-Librarian to get your questions answered via chat, text, e-mail, phone, or in person.  You can always contact me via e-mail at rudasill @

What is primary source material?

Primary resources are actual artifacts that have survived from past historical events, including letters, photographs, physical objects such as cooking utensils from the days of westward expansion, or articles of clothing. They provide firsthand evidence of historical events, and can represent a wide variety of formats that are generally not formally published (maps, audio/video recordings, posters, postcards, government documents, diaries, court records, census bureau data that is tabulated but not interpreted, etc.). Published materials can also be viewed as primary resource materials if they come from the period that is being discussed, and were written by somebody with firsthand experience of the event. Primary resources reflect the individual viewpoint of the participant or observer. For example, newspaper articles written by somebody who experienced the event are primary sources for political science, while a literary work is a primary source for literary criticism.

If you are having trouble deciding what sources to use for your research, or are in need of more information than is provided here, please ask a librarian for assistance.

What are secondary sources?

A secondary source is a work that interprets or analyzes an historical event or phenomenon.  It is at least one step removed from the event although it is usually based on primary sources surrounding an event.  Examples include scholarly or popular books and articles, reference books and textbooks.

You can find both primary and secondary sources by searching the I-Share Catalog, Easy Search, or the wide variety of resources found in indexing and abstracting databases including EBSCO, Public Affairs Information Service International, HEIN Online, Lexis Nexis, or any of the almost 600 other databases available.  The Online Research Resources link will connect you to the electronic research tools provided by the University Library.  If you are looking for databases in the areas of Law or Political Science go to the Online Research Resources and select the tab for "Article Indexes & Abstracts" at the top left of the page then scroll down and choose the appropriate general subject heading. 

The chart below will give you an idea of how primary and secondary sources compare with each other.

Subject Guide

Lynne Rudasill's picture
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