Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

History: Primary Resources

A guide dedicated to primary resources related to United States and international history.

Contact the Library

Circulation Desk
(Renewing, ILL, Checkin/Checkout)

Reference Desk
(Database help, Using materials)

What are primary sources?

Primary sources are materials that offer original data about a particular time, place or event. Primary source materials are usually created at the time period that is studied.  Primary sources are materials that have not undergone any sort of evalution or interpretation.  Examples of primary sources include:

Diaries and Autobiographies

"On the scene" interviews






Newspaper articles


Audio/ video recordings

Musical scores



Court records



Primary sources may also include materials that were created by a witness of a time period or event, but at a later date. Examples of these types of primary sources include autobiographies and oral interviews.

Secondary sources - what is the difference?

Secondary sources are materials that have been created by someone such as a historian or an author. Secondary sources offer an evaluation or opinion on data gathered from a primary source. Examples of secondary source materials include:

  • biographies
  • newspaper or journal articles written after the event
  • the research paper you write

The bibliography of a secondary source may be useful to locate a primary source. For example, if you find a journal article related to your research topic, check the bibliography of that article for primary sources that the author used.

Links for Students