Special Collections research

Introduction to Research in Special Collections

A primary source is firsthand data generated by eyewitnesses or contemporaries of an event, person, time period, etc. Typical formats of primary sources include:

·         Correspondence

·         Manuscripts

·         Diaries

·         Newspapers

·         Reports

·         Photographs

·         Contemporary accounts


The difference between a primary source and a secondary source is not necessarily format but the relationship between the material and the research question.

Uses of primary sources include biographies, edited editions of literary works/letters, rediscovery projects, critical editions of an author’s work, genealogical research, historical works, legal research, marketing research.


Finding primary sources

§  UD Special Collections website: http://www.lib.udel.edu/ud/spec/

            Finding aids are guides to archival collections. They include background on the subject of the collection, the overall scope of the material, including extent, date span, and types of materials included, and a box inventory. The depth of processing varies between collections.


You can limit a search in DELCAT to only materials in Special Collections through the Advanced Search and limit by location.

§  WorldCat (available through UD Library databases)

Online Tutorials

Instructions for Using Special Collections: A Tutorial, Penn State University