Subject Guides

Online Primary Sources

What are primary sources?

A Primary source is an original document or object created at the time being studied or by a participant in the events being studied at a later date.  It is an original source of information, which allows the researcher to get as close to the historical event or time period as possible. 

Primary sources include:

  • newspapers
  • photographs
  • memoirs, autobiographies, diaries
  • interviews
  • a journal article reporting NEW research or findings
  • letters
  • manuscripts
  • artifacts
  • records of organizations and agencies of government

A Secondary source analyzes or interprets historical events, time periods, and primary sources.  They are a step removed from what is being studied.

Secondary sources include:

  • textbooks
  • magazine articles
  • histories
  • criticisms
  • commentaries
  • encyclopedias

How to Find Primary Sources