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Humanities II | D. Arena & W. Chuch | C. Edler & P. Masteller

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

Primary Sources

Primary Sources in Reference Books

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