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:
- Plato's Republic - women in ancient Greece
- The Declaration of Independence - U. S. history
- African-American Poetry (1750-1900) – U. S. history & literature
- Diary of Anne Frank - experiences of Jews in World War II
- film footage of the assassination of President J. F. Kennedy
- National Security Data Archives – U. S. history ~ declassified documents
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:
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: