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Library & Research Overview: Primary Sources

A guide to using the CIA Library and conducting academic research.

What are Primary Sources?

Primary sources are the raw materials of research.

The types of materials can include:

  • items such as manuscripts, documents, diaries, letters
  • audio and visual media such as photographs, sketches, recordings of interviews
  • physical objects (artifacts of material culture) such as tools, utensils, pots, clothes, quilts

The other categories of sources:

Secondary Sources are the original published writings that analyze and interpret primary sources, typically, books and articles in magazines, newspapers, scholarly journals, and professional and trade journals.

Tertiary Sources are publications that summarize or, in other ways, present the information found in secondary sources. These include textbooks, encyclopedias and other reference resources.

Any item can be a primary source, if it is the object being studied; it depends on your perspective, that is how you see it and use it in the context of a research study.
A secondary or tertiary source may be used as a primary source; for example, if you are doing research on how newspaper articles are written, then a newspaper article is your primary source.

Many primary sources are reproduced and reprinted in books that are available in libraries and many are digitized and available online.

CIA Archives & Special Collections

The Culinary Institute of America's Archives and Special Collections collects materials related to the history of the college, a world-renowned collection of over 30,000 historical menus, culinary-related rare books, historical recipe pamphlets, and much more!  Housed on the main floor of the Conrad N. Hilton Library, the Archives and Special Collections are open to faculty, staff and students, as well as to outside visitors and researchers.

If you are interested in learning more about the Archives or locating a specific item please contact Nicole Semenchuk.


Phone: 845-451-1270

Quick links:

Search the Digital Menu Collection

Explore the Archives and Special Collections

Finding Historic Articles with JSTOR

Searching Tips:

  • Use the drop-down menu box to select full-text or item title field.
  • Select an Access Type: 
    • Read and Download for full-text available to the CIA Library or
    • All Content to search the entire JSTOR database for citations to articles you can request thru Interlibrary Loan.
  • Narrow by:
    • Item Type: typically, select articles
    • Date
  • Filter by Disciplines, select one or more subject areas.

Finding Primary Sources in the Catalog

Use the Advanced Search in Omnivore BookSearch

Search your topic

Add the Subject Sources to find books that contain reproductions of primary source documents

To find original or reprinted books published before 1800, use the Subject Early works to 1800

The Culinary Institute of America | Conrad N. Hilton Library | 1946 Campus Drive | Hyde Park, NY 12538-1430
Telephone: 845-451-1747 | Email: