Q. What is a primary source?

Answer

primary source is a first-hand account of an event, time period, or philosophical era.

A primary source may include:

  • diaries, journals, speeches, letters, interviews, office memos and other papers if the author was present at the event being written about
  •  memoirs and autobiographies which are describing events that the author was present for
  • government documents, such as census records
  • reports and minutes of organizations that reflect events, conditions and ideas of the time
  • books, journals and newspapers written at the time of the event in question
  • photographs, audio tapes, and film that document an event
  • research data documenting scientific data at the time
  • artifacts of all kinds, which may include buildings (architecture), household items, cave drawings, clothing, paintings, pottery

Primary sources do not include:

  • historical accounts of an event
  • memoirs or autobiographies that reflect on an event that the author was not present for, unless it reflects the popular opinion of the time
  • a critical analysis of a work of literature that was written much later than the actual work
  • documentation of ideas or psychology of a time may be found in popular fiction, films, educational material etc produced during that time period
  • a critical analysis of an historical event that was written much later

For more information about why we use primary sources, and how / where to search for them, please visit our subject guide on primary sources.

  • Last Updated Mar 05, 2017
  • Views 4
  • Answered By Matt Young

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