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Primary Sources

Guide to finding primary sources.

What Are Primary Sources?

A primary source is a first-hand account of an event or time period that was created by the participants or observers. Primary sources enable historians to stand as close to the past as possible without actually being present at the event.

Examples of primary sources include:

  • Original documents such as letters, manuscripts, diaries, speeches
  • Autobiographies & memoirs
  • Artifacts from researched time period such as clothing, tools, etc.
  • Records from governmental agencies & non-governmental organizations 
  • Photographs and other audio-visual materials
  • Newspaper articles & books that are contemporaneous to the time under study
  • Maps
  • Court cases

What Are Secondary Sources?

Secondary sources are accounts that are written after the fact of an event or time period.  These resources interpret, analyze, or explain an event, person or primary source.  

Examples of secondary sources include:

  • Journal articles
  • Biographies
  • Criticisms written well after the studied event 
  • Encyclopedias
  • Documentaries