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University of Southern MaineLibraries

SOC 301: Qualitative Research Methods: Primary Sources

A guide to library resources for SOC 301 as taught by Dr. Chapkis.

What are Primary Sources

Primary sources are an original work created during or around the event being studied. A primary source is not interpretive. It will not examine events as they happen (For example a primary source from the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement might tell you about the events from the first night of the Stonewall Riots, but it won't talk about the cultural impact of the start of the riots.)

Examples of Primary Sources:

  • Diaries
  • Letters
  • Speeches
  • Government Documents (such as a piece of legislation)
  • Recordings
  • Photographs

Accessing the Souces

You will need to make an appointment with Special Collections to access anything that is not digitized. Don't wait until the last minute to schedule an appointment.

Special Collections is located on the 6th floor of Glickman Library on the USM Portland Campus.

Masks are required.

Prior to the Oct. 19th class you must:

Email Susie Bock:

You may request up to 3 Boxes from 2 different Collections for the class period.

In your email please include:

What class you're doing the research for (SOC 301)

  • Call Number

Example:  LG MS 11

  • Name of Collection(s):

Example:  Northern Lambda Nord Archives

  • The Box (s) number you would like to look at:

Example: Box 10

Make sure you note which box goes with which collection

"I'm with the SOC 301 class. I would like to look at the following in OCt. 19th:

LG MS 11, Northern Lambda Nord Archives, Boxes 5 & 10

LG MS 05, Maine Lesbian Feminist Archives, Box 1"

After Oct. 19th if you want to access the collection:

Fall 2021 Hours

Mondays: 1:00 - 4:45pm

Tuesdays: Closed

Wednesdays: 1:00 - 4:45pm

Thursdays: 1:00 - 4:45pm

Fridays -Sundays: Closed

To make an appointment, email:

  • Include what days and times you would be available to visit Special Collections during their open hours.

Special Collections will contact you to set up an appointment. At this appointment you will only be able to access one Box at a time, which an archivist will bring out for you.


Searching Digital Commons

Everything you need to search for sources is on the Digital Commons page.

Digitized Collections in the LGBTQ+ Collection:

Finding Aids for the LGBTQ+ Collection (LG MS):

Basic Searching

You can search the collections by using the Search box in the top left. It will run a keyword search for anything in the collection in the center of the screen, in this case Querying the Past

Image of Querying the Past page in Digital commons with search box on top left side

Once your results come back and you choose one, if it's a document, you may have to run your search again to find where in the document your words are. You can do this with the little magnifying glass, or if you download the PDF, by using the Ctrl  and F keys on your keyboard.

image of a record with transcript at the bottom of the page. A magnifying glass is at the top


Finding Aids

A Finding Aid is created by archivist who organize the collection when it comes to the collection.

All of the ones at Special Collections have similar information listed in them.

First page of a finding aid. Text reads LG MS 11 Northern Lambda Nord Archives Finding Aid.

The Call Number:  LG MS 11

(where it lives on the shelves. You don't need to know this but the archivist getting the box for you does)

The Name of the Collection: Northern Lambda Nord Archives

(Usually who (a person or organization) collected all the materials that are in the collection)

Archivists names who processed the collection and wrote the finding aid: Michelle E. Smith & Kristin Morris.

(These are people to ask if you have questions about the collection)

In the Finding Aid, the collection is broken down into Series (a grouping of documents). These Series are then put into folders that are put into a box or boxes.

Box and Folders

Series: 1. Administration

Box: 1

(An individual box will hold many folders. Sometimes Series will have more than one box in them).

Folder: 30 - 35

(All of these folders are in the same box, but they all hold different pieces. They will also run in numerical order in the box).

If you wanted to look at the meeting minutes from July 1991, you would need to request Call Number LG MS 11, Box 1. Once you get the box you would look for Folder 32.


Remember! Your greatest allies are the Archivists who work in Special Collections.

They are here to help you find useful sources, so reach out if you have questions: