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Primary Sources: Home

TCC Library

What are Primary Sources?

Primary sources are the first hand evidence left behind by participants or observers at the time of events. Primary sources originate in the time period that you are studying.

Types of Primary Sources


Newspapers, magazines, court decisions, letters, diaries/journals, government documents, treaties, memoirs, autobiographies, maps, posters, eye witness accounts, statistics, cartoons, emails, transcripts, digital book collections, personal records, vital records

Oral Recordings of interviews, music, speeches
Visual   Photography, film, paintings, drawings, maps
Relics or Artifacts Clothing, furniture, tools, inventions, pottery, crafts, coins, sculpture

Difference Between Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary Sources

"A primary source provides direct or firsthand evidence about an event, object, person, or work of art. Primary sources include historical and legal documents, eyewitness accounts, results of experiments, statistical data, pieces of creative writing, audio and video recordings, speeches, and art objects. Interviews, surveys, fieldwork, and Internet communications via email, blogs, listservs, and newsgroups are also primary sources. In the natural and social sciences, primary sources are often empirical studies—research where an experiment was performed or a direct observation was made. The results of empirical studies are typically found in scholarly articles or papers delivered at conferences.

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources describe, discuss, interpret, comment upon, analyze, evaluate, summarize, and process primary sources. Secondary source materials can be articles in newspapers or popular magazines, book or movie reviews, or articles found in scholarly journals that discuss or evaluate someone else's original research."  Ithaca College Library

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Christie Bradley
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