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For The People | C. Edler

Primary and Secondary Sources

The definition of a primary source depends upon the discipline and on how one is using the source.

Usually, a primary source is a direct, first-hand account of an event. It is usually something that was created at the time of an event, or shortly thereafter. It's a first-person account of an event. Examples include:

  • Diaries
  • Letters
  • Speeches
  • Interviews
  • Statistics
  • Photographs
  • Art
  • Newspaper articles  
  • Maps
  • Video and audio recordings
  • First-hand narratives or stories

A secondary source would be something that interprets, analyses, or remarks upon a primary source. Examples include:

  • Scholarly journal articles
  • Newspaper and magazine articles
  • Essays
  • Theses and dissertations
  • Stories or films produced about an historical event

tertiary source is further removed from a primary source. It leads the researcher to a secondary source, rather than to the primary source.

  • Encyclopedias and dictionaries
  • Textbooks
  • Biographies


To find primary source material for your topic, try adding one of the keywords below:

  • charters
  • correspondence
  • diaries
  • documents
  • interviews
  • letters
  • manuscripts
  • oratory
  • pamphlets
  • personal narratives
  • sources
  • speeches

Recommended Primary Source Databases

While primary sources can be found throughout this libguide in places like books, newspaper articles, images and streaming video, and recommended websites, just to name a few, the following databases may be useful to you in identifying primary sources for your assignments:

Recommended Primary Source Websites

HINT! To cite these primary sources in NoodleTools: Where is it? Website | What is it? Historical Work in an Archive | URL is stable