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What is a primary source? (Historical Research): What is a primary source?

What are primary sources?

Primary sources are the evidence of history, original records or objects created by participants or observers at the time historical events occurred or even well after events, as in memoirs and oral histories. -- RUSA, a Division of ALA

Some examples:

  • letters,
  • manuscripts,
  • diaries,
  • journals
  • newspapers
  • maps
  • speeches
  • interviews
  • documents produced by government agencies
  • photographs
  • audio or video recordings
  • emails
  • research data
  • objects or artifacts (such as works of art or ancient roads, buildings, tools, and weapons)

Some primary sources may be created after an event by people who experienced the event. Some examples:

  • memoirs
  • oral histories

Your Librarian

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Rebecca Seipp
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MSIS, Information Science
The University of Texas at Austin
BA, History
Southwestern University

Primary Source - Infographic

Infographic by Shonn Haren, Library at Wichita State University


Content credit: Pikes Peak Community College Libraries, History: Primary Sources