Primary Sources

What are primary sources?

"Primary sources are original records created at the time historical events occurred or well after events in the form of memoirs and oral histories. Primary sources may include letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, speeches, interviews, memoirs, documents produced by government agencies such as Congress or the Office of the President, photographs, audio recordings, moving pictures or video recordings, research data, and objects or artifacts such as works of art or ancient roads, buildings, tools, and weapons. These sources serve as the raw material to interpret the past, and when they are used along with previous interpretations by historians, they provide the resources necessary for historical research.”

From Using Primary Sources on the Web published by the History Section of the Reference and User Services Association, a division of the American Library Association.

What are secondary sources?

"Secondary sources are accounts of the past created by people writing about events sometime after they happened (this could be a few years later or centuries later). In other words, secondary sources are what historians … create. Historians' creations usually come in the form of books and journal articles. They are an analysis of past events and times based on evidence provided by primary sources which are cited in numerous footnotes and in a bibliography."

From For Students: History Day Research - University of Washington Libraries

Evaluating primary sources

Finding primary sources

You also could use your favorite search engine and search for the terms "primary sources" or "electronic texts" or "digital collections".

If you are looking for documents about a specific event or person, try searching by combining one of the above terms with the name of the event or person.