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What Are Primary Sources?

Primary sources are original accounts or records of historical events. These sources are from the time period involved, and they have not been filtered through interpretation. Primary sources include:

  • Diaries, journals, speeches, interviews, letters, correspondence
  • Memoirs and autobiographies
  • Government records, such as birth, death and marriage certificates, census records, licenses, patents, trial transcripts, etc.
  • Records of organizations, i.e., minutes, reports or correspondence
  • Original Documents (e.g. family Bible records)
  • Photographs, documentaries, sound recordings of actual events
  • Survey Research such as market surveys and public opinion polls

Note: Newspaper, magazine and journal articles and books written at the time about a particular event are often considered primary sources. These accounts were usually written by journalists or other observers at the time of the event. Materials that are written later and/or provide historical analysis are considered secondary sources.

Historical Newspapers & Journals

Other Useful LNDL Databases for Finding Primary Sources

Selected Websites for Primary Sources

Always check with your instructor before including resources from the Web in your research project. He or she will want to know that you have properly evaluted any information that you may use.

The websites linked from this page have all been selected by a librarian, but you will still need to evaluate their content to determine if it is reliable and relevant to your research.

Contact a librarian for help determining if a website is reliable or not.