Answered By: Elaine M. Patton
Last Updated: Sep 06, 2015     Views: 6

A primary source comes directly from the concept or people in question.

In the field of history, this means works created during the time period in question, whether it's from a person who is recounting an event they lived through or a secondary source from that historical time period (e.g. a newspaper article from 1864). Primary sources give us direct glimpses into how people thought and felt at the time.

In government and political science, the text of laws, bills, statutes, and court opinions are primary sources.

In the sciences, primary sources include reports of original research and lab notes.

In English/literature analysis, the text of the analyzed work, even if it is fiction, is a primary source.

Examples of primary sources:

  • Diaries, letters, manuscripts, autobiographies 
  • Speeches
  • Photographs, drawings, and other creative works
  • Sound recordings
  • News footage and newspaper articles from the period
  • Artifacts like clothing and furniture
  • Original research reports and lab notes
  • Laws, statutes, and court opinions

Examples of secondary sources:

  • Textbooks
  • Biographies
  • Journal or magazine articles that reflect on previous findings (no new research is presented)