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Why Primary Sources?

collage of primary source items

Video - Primary vs. Secondary Sources (created by the Minnesota History Center) 4:17 min

What is a Primary Source?

"Primary sources provide firsthand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic or question under investigation." --Yale University

A primary source is typically an original document, recording, or object from the time period being studied. It is the point of view from a person who experienced the event/action or who witnessed it.

Some examples of primary sources include: 

  • Government Documents
  • Letters
  • Diaries and Journals
  • Oral Histories
  • Photographs
  • Films
  • Maps
  • Newspapers
  • Other Historical Records

Key Words

Using the key words in the table below may be useful when searching the databases for primary sources.

**The the majority of the content in this table was borrowed from the Adelphi University research guide on primary sources.

Primary Sources - Often Used to in Performing Arts

African History

British and European History

North American History


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