TLT  •   @One  •   Special Collections  •   Basque  •   DeLaMare  •   Savitt

What is a Primary Source?

There are three types of resources used in research: primary sources, secondary sources, and finding tools.

I. Primary Sources

A primary source is a document, speech, or other sort of evidence written, created or otherwise produced during the time under study. Primary sources offer an inside view of a particular event. Examples include:

Original Documents

Autobiographies, diaries, e-mail, interviews, letters, minutes, news film footage, official records, photographs, raw research data, speeches.

Creative Works

Art, drama, films, music, novels, poetry.

Relics or Artifacts

Buildings, clothing, DNA, furniture, jewelry, pottery.

Examples of Primary Sources

II. Secondary Sources

Secondary sources provide interpretation and analysis of primary sources. Secondary sources are one step removed from the original event or "horse's mouth."

Examples of Secondary Sources

  • Britannica Online encyclopedia (online)
  • American National Biography (database)
  • literary criticism analyzing a play, poem, novel, or short story
  • magazine or newspaper articles about events or people
  • political commentary analyzing an election or politician (via Lexis-Nexis database)
  • textbooks

III. Finding Sources

Finding sources are research tools that lead to primary or secondary sources. Developed by subject experts, they provide quality filters unavailable via the Internet's search engines. The UNR Libraries web site provides access to a variety of research resources

Examples of Finding Sources