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  • History Resources: What is a Primary Source?

    Examples of Primary Sources

    • Diaries;
    • Letters;
    • Newspaper articles written by direct observers;
    • Audio recordings;
    • Interviews;
    • Speeches;
    • Official records of organizations or government agencies;  
    • Ledgers;
    • Manuscripts;
    • Survey results;
    • Photographs;
    • Maps;
    • Original documents;
    • Autobiographies;
    • Video recordings;
    • News film footage;
    • Poetry;
    • Music; 
    • Artifacts (pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings, etc.);  

    What is a Primary Source?

    Primary sources are original materials created or produced during the time under study. 

    These raw materials have not been interpreted, filtered, or evaluated. 

    Primary sources enable the reader to make their own interpretations about the event, without having to rely on what has already been written on the topic. 

    They present original thinking, report a discovery, or share new information. 

    A primary source reflects an individual viewpoint from a participant or observer. 


    Primary and Secondary Sources

    - When searching for primary sources, it is often beneficial to look at the bibliography of a secondary source. 

    - Secondary sources are interpretations of primary sources. 

    - They are materials created by someone who did not experience the event first hand or participate in the event. 

    - Secondary sources are written after the fact and have the benefit of hindsight.

    - Viewing the bibliographies of secondary sources is an excellent way to track down relevant primary sources on a specific topic.