What are some other names for primary sources?
Primary sources come in many different formats. They can include:
Newspapers written at the time of the event
Diaries or journals
Oral history, interviews
Artwork and sketches
Manuscripts, or drafts, of a literary person's writings, such as novels or poems
Official records of a business, including financial ledgers
Find Primary Sources at
Ancient & Medieval History Online
Primary Sources are the raw materials of history. They are unique materials that are created at the time of a historical event that serve as proof of historical facts.
A Primary Source provides firsthand evidence about a historical event or period in which the creator of the source was an actual participant in or a contemporary of a historical moment.
The purpose of Primary Sources is to capture the words, the thoughts and the intentions of the past. Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during a historical event or time period.
Primary Sources present information in its original form. They are unfiltered materials; the information is not interpreted by someone who was not a witness to the event.
Primary sources can be used to determine how we know about historical events, or cultural trends. How do we know about a moment once it is passed? By the evidence it leaves behind.
Ptolemy, Copernicus, Galileus; Thomas Salusbury (translation), 1661. The systeme of the world in four dialogues. Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. ARTSTOR E2.12Art_roll182G_frame22.
If you're a history student, or in any course where your research must be based on historical evidence, you need to know how to find primary sources and how to effectively use the information they provide. By using primary sources you can create your own interpretation about an event in history, or you can create new knowledge about the event.
Thanks to Laura Smith, Archivist at the University of Connecticut Libraries for primary sources information.
It is often confusing to determine if something is a primary source. Materials that are NOT primary sources include:
Books written after a historical event by someone who was not involved in the event. Books are considered Secondary Sources.
An interview with someone who has an opinion or is knowledgeable about a historical event, even if that person is an expert or a historian on the event.
Statistics compiled about a historical event (for example, a tally of the number of dead in a battle)
Secondary Sources are created when Primary Sources are analyzed and summed up. Books, articles, encyclopedia entries, essays are secondary sources -- anything that is not the unfiltered representation of the subject of the writing.