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Primary Sources  

Last Updated: Nov 20, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Finding Primary Sources Print Page

What are primary sources?

Primary sources are documents, artifacts, or other records created by first-hand testimony or direct evidence of an event. There are many kinds of primary sources, including letters, diaries, newspapers, speeches, interviews, memoirs, photographs, audio or video recordings, and objects/artifacts. These may be in their original form - manuscript letters, for example - or they may be reprinted or reproduced in books and other media.

Primary sources serve as raw material for research and are used along with other materials to get an intimate look at a person, period, or event in order to better understand it from your own perspective.


What are secondary sources?

Secondary sources are documents, articles, books, and other materials that discuss and expand upon the meaning of a primary source. Exploring secondary sources is an opportunity to gain insight into an event or primary source document by reading the interpretations of experts in a field. Secondary sources help you understand the content and context of primary source materials.

Primary Sources on the Internet

Many primary source documents are available in digital formats on the internet. In the pages on the various different types of primary sources, we'll make some suggestions of places to look. In general, though, here are some repositories that are good sources of primary source documents:


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