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Primary Sources

Primary sources are materials directly related to a topic by time or participation. Primary sources are created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or circumstances, providing firsthand testimony or direct evidence. Typically primary sources are created contemporaneously with the event or circumstances, but primary sources can also include reflections recorded later, such as autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories.

In contrast, secondary sources interpret or analyze historical events or circumstances. Examples of secondary sources include  scholarly or popular books and articles, reference books, and textbooks.

Examples of Primary Sources

  • Art (paintings, drawings, sculpture, etc.)
  • Autobiographies
  • Court cases
  • First hand accounts
  • Films/Videos
  • Government documents
  • Letters
  • Literature
  • Lyrics
  • Maps
  • Memoirs
  • Newspaper articles, written at the time
  • Official memoranda
  • Oral histories
  • Performances and plays
  • Photographs
  • Poetry
  • Posters
  • Public opinion surveys/polls
  • Speeches
  • Statistics and data
  • Television shows