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What is a Primary Source?
A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event. Some types of primary sources include:
- ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS (excerpts or translations acceptable): Diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records
- CREATIVE WORKS: Poetry, drama, novels, music, art
- RELICS OR ARTIFACTS: Pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings
Examples of primary sources include:
- Diary of Anne Frank - Experiences of a Jewish family during WWII
- The Constitution of Canada - Canadian History
- A journal article reporting NEW research or findings
- Weavings and pottery - Native American history
- Plato's Republic - Women in Ancient Greece
What is a secondary source?
A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may have pictures, quotes or graphics of primary sources in them. Some types of seconday sources include:
- PUBLICATIONS: Textbooks, magazine articles, histories, criticisms, commentaries, encyclopedias
Examples of secondary sources include:
- A journal/magazine article which interprets or reviews previous findings
- A history textbook
- A book about the effects of WWI
Search by keyword for Primary Sources
Perform a keyword search for your topic and add one of the words below:
(these are several examples of words that would identify a source as primary)
- early works
- personal narratives
From “What is a Primary Source?.” Princeton University. <http://www.princeton.edu/~refdesk/primary2.html>
Ebscohost Research Databases Ebscohost provides access to a variety of academic databases which each hold thousands of full-text, peer-reviewed journal articles. An excellent source of reliable information for student research projects.
History Reference Center Designed for academic research, this database features full text for more than 1,990 reference books, encyclopedias, and non-fiction books. This content comes from leading history publishers such as Branden Publishing, Compass Point Books, Houghton Mifflin, Lerner Publishing Group, Mason Crest Publishers, Morgan Reynolds Inc., Oliver Press, Oxford University Press, Rourke Publishing LLC, Salem Press, Stackpole Books, and Toucan Valley Publications.
Student Resources in Context Student Resources In Context offers cross-curricular content aligned to national, state, and Common Core State Standards, and presents that material in the way most useful for students. This unique database provides stellar support for papers, projects, and presentations while reinforcing the development of critical thinking and problem solving skills, communication, collaboration, creativity, and innovation.
Primary and Secondary Sources
The online tool for teaching with documents, from the National Archives
Primary source documents for the study of history.
History Digital Library
Online Historical Documents
The Internet Archive and Open Library offers over 6,000,000 fully accessible public domain eBooks.
Internet History Sourcebooks Project
The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted historical texts presented cleanly (without advertising or excessive layout) for educational use.
Library of Congress - American Memory
American Memory provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience.
Resources for teaching history.
Educational materials and primary source documents.