Skip to main content
Last Updated: February 07, 2019

Introduction to Primary Sources

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.
When you are investigating

a topic, individual, or event

from the past, or are looking for historical insight,

primary sources provide an unfiltered

account that you can use to draw original conclusions.

A primary source is a document or artifact

that has survived in its original form and

provides you a first-hand account of the event,

person, or time period you are researching.

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

and provide the raw building blocks of historical research.

Newspaper coverage from the time period of an

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

Creative works like songs provide insight

into culture and social priorities.

Interviews and personal accounts from individuals

involved in key historical events impart priceless perspective.

Before you begin exploring primary sources,

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

to build your background knowledge of the time period

in question and brainstorm keywords

that may appear in original documents from the time.

As you read a primary source, think critically

and identify who wrote or produced the source,

when, and for what audience and purpose.

Ask yourself what unique insight it provides.

Transform your research.

Use primary sources digitized by Gale

from the world's top libraries and archives.

Talk to your librarian to learn more
© 2024 Gale, part of Cengage Group