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History - Primary Resources

Collections of historic books, newpapers and periodicals in Michener Library.

Welcome to the Primary Sources Research Guide! Here you will find information on what primary sources are, how to find primary sources, and how to use them. 

Definition of Primary Sources

Primary sources provide direct evidence about events, phenomena, or a person’s thoughts or actions. They are often created at the time an event occurred or sometimes by someone who can provide firsthand knowledge about an event or subject. Examples of primary sources are letters, diaries, photographs, and artwork.

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources

  Primary Secondary Tertiary
Definition Original documents created or experienced concurrently with the event being researched and firsthand accounts Works that analyze, assess, or interpret a historical event, era, or phenomenon. Sources that identify, locate, and synthesize primary AND secondary sources
Characteristics Firsthand observations, contemporary accounts of the event. Viewpoint of the time Interpretation of information, usually written well after an event. Offers reviews or critiques Reference works, collections of lists of primary and secondary sources, finding tools for sources
Examples Interviews, news footage, data sets, original research, speeches, diaries, letters, creative works, photographs Research studies, literary criticism, book reviews, journal articles, biographies, textbooks  Encyclopedias, bibliographies, dictionaries, manuals, fact books