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Primary Sources: About: About

find out about primary sources

What is a primary source?

A primary source is original material, recorded in various formats, during the time of the event or person which you are researching. Primary sources can also be recorded after the events, such as an autobiography.

Many materials are considered primary sources, for example:

  • Autobiographies & Memoirs
  • Broadsides
  • Census Data or other statistical data
  • Court Documents
  • Diaries
  •  Ephemera
  • Government Documents
  • Interviews
  • Letters or other correspondence
  •  Maps
  • Newspapers or Other Periodicals
  • Oral Histories
  • Photographs
  • Political Cartoons
  • Speeches
  • Treaties and Agreements
  • Works of Art, fiction, & music

In what formats are primary sources available?

Primary sources are available in many formats.

  • Artifacts
  • Books
  • Digitized versions available online
  • Interviews which could be recordings or transcriptions or one you personally conduct
  • Microfilm or microfiche

  • Newsprint

  • Original Paper Documents

  • Sound Recordings such as: Radio Programs, Audio tapes, MP3s, or Cds

  • Video Recordings such as: DVDs, VHS, Film, or Streaming Video files online

The formats in which primary sources can be found will continue to evolve with the changes in modern technology.


Primary source materials may contain language or images that are considered to be offensive in today's world.

These materials are a reflection of the language and culture of the time period in which they were written.

Need more info?

  • If you still aren't sure if your source is primary - check with your professor.
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