When doing historical research, using both types of sources is vitally important. Primary sources are valuable because they were written during the researched time frame. Contemporaries of past events react to them or describe them utilizing fresh memories. Primary sources can also be documents that validate certain notions or facts. Secondary sources, while also being extremely valuable, are written post factum using the advantage of retrospective. Secondary sources take another distanced look at the events of the past with the intention to reevaluate in order to reveal more objective information. Which type of sources is the best? The question is pointless as both have undeniable merits and drawbacks. The primary sources serve as the doorway to the thinking of people in the past. Secondary sources allow for hindsight, a wider perspective, a slightly clearer view at all factors involved. The best approach during research would be to use both types as they augment each other perfectly. Primary sources means that one would be able to receive a first-hand experience, information straight from the mouth of the eyewitness to whichever events. This information is extremely valuable, because it lets us, researchers, to understand how people perceived the events and reality that was existent then. These are memories untarnished by the remarkable stretches of time. The impressions are still fresh and are, therefore, able to provide a more honest picture. One of the great examples of a primary source are the California sketches by W.S. Walker. The person describes the journey to California and back again, by land and water. It is a remarkable travelling account that shows the level of development of those lands in the mid-19th century. Another great instance of a primary source is the collection of resources about the ocean and ocean exploration at the UC San Diego Special. The collection includes photograph, one of the most effective primary. San Diego History Center Oral Histories presents different stories concerning smaller aspects of life of usual people spanning the second half of the 20th century. Such a resource would be extremely valuable in a century. A great collection of primary sources can be found at Rose Institute of State and Local Government. The collection chronicles election processes in California since 1849. A remarkable primary source released in the book is “California Odyssey: the 1930s Migration to the Southern San Joaquin Valley,” a collection of oral stories from people, who had to go through all of it.
Secondary sources, on the other hand, are written by one or more authors. “The Dust Bowl: an Interactive History Adventure” by Allison Lassieur also tells about the Dust Bowl, but there is analysis involved. It is not the view of the contemporaries of those times. “California: a history” by Kevin Starr is a general view at the history of the State. The same applies to “California: A History” by David Lavender. “A People’s History” by Howard Zinn features are look at California in the framework of the entire country. This is the case when the secondary sources always relies on primary sources to validate certain facts. “Major Problems in California History” by Chan Sucheng and Olin C. Spencer uncovers controversial points in the history of the state, trying to look at them from the objective point of view in the attempt to get to the bottom of the overviewed problems.
When working with primary sources, one has to ask constantly – what was the intention behind the creation of what later became the primary source and what is the context? What is the place of the person within the society who created the primary source? Understanding the answers to these questions will allow for correct implementation of primary sources into research.
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