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What is a Primary Source?   Tags: document_analysis, primary_sources  

How is a primary source important for research? What is the difference between a primary source and a secondary source? How do I find primary sources? What is the best way to use them for my research? What is a Document Analysis and how do I do it?
Last Updated: Aug 7, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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What are some other names for Primary Sources?





Historical Documents

Original Records/Documents


What is a Primary Source?

Primary Sources are the raw materials of history.  They are unique materials that are created at the time of a historical event that serve as proof of historical facts. A Primary Source provides firsthand evidence about a historical event or period in which the creator of the source was an actual participant in or a contemporary of a historical moment.  

The purpose of Primary Sources is to capture the words, the thoughts and the intentions of the past.  Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during a historical event or time period.

Primary Sources present information in its original form.  They are unfiltered materials; the information is not interpreted by someone who was not a witness to the event. 

Primary sources can be used to determine how we know about historical events, or cultural trends.  How do we know about a moment once it is passed?  By the evidence it leaves behind.

Primary sources are used by historians, who, by applying critical thinking skills, develop an interpretation of a historical event.


Why are Primary Sources Important for my Research?

If you're a history student, or in any course where your research must be based on historical evidence, you need to know how to find primary sources and how to effectively use the information they provide.  By using primary sources you can create your own interpretation about an event in history, or you can create new knowledge about the event.

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Laura Smith

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