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Introduction to Primary Sources

Duration: 0 Minutes

This tutorial defines primary sources, explores common types of primary sources, and highlights the differences between primary source and secondary resources while discussing the purpose and use of each.


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When you are investigating

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a topic, individual, or event

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from the past, or are looking for historical insight,

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primary sources provide an unfiltered

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account that you can use to draw original conclusions.

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A primary source is a document or artifact

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that has survived in its original form and

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provides you a first-hand account of the event,

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person, or time period you are researching.

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They are as close as you can come to experiencing something yourself,

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and provide the raw building blocks of historical research.

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Newspaper coverage from the time period of an

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event can reveal in-the-moment misconceptions and missteps.

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Creative works like songs provide insight

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into culture and social priorities.

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Interviews and personal accounts from individuals

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involved in key historical events impart priceless perspective.

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Before you begin exploring primary sources,

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it may be helpful to use secondary sources like biographies, articles, etc.

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to build your background knowledge of the time period

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in question and brainstorm keywords

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that may appear in original documents from the time.

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As you read a primary source, think critically

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and identify who wrote or produced the source,

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when, and for what audience and purpose.

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Ask yourself what unique insight it provides.

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Transform your research.

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Use primary sources digitized by Gale

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from the world's top libraries and archives.

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Talk to your librarian to learn more