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Using Primary Sources

What is a primary source?
A primary source is a document, speech, or other sort of evidence written, created or otherwise produced during the time under study.
Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during an historical event or time period. A primary source reflects the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer.
What are examples of primary sources?
  • Original Documents
    Autobiographies, diaries, e-mail, interviews, letters, minutes, news film footage, official records, photographs, raw research data, speeches.
  • Creative Works
    Art, drama, films, music, novels, poetry.
  • Relics or Artifacts
    Buildings, clothing, DNA, furniture, jewelry, pottery.
For excellent guidance on the use of primary sources, consult the Library of Congress, teacher resources section at this link: http://www.loc.gov/teachers/usingprimarysources/