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WRIT 340: Advanced Writing for Arts and Humanities: Primary Source

Primary Source

Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They are created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring, but primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later. Primary sources are characterized by their content, regardless of whether they are available in original format, in microfilm/microfiche, in digital format, or in published format.

Yale University, What is a Primary Source

Types Primary Sources

Primary sources enable you to get as close as possible to understanding the lived experiences of others and discovering what actually happened during an event.

Reviewing primary source material can be of value in improving your overall research paper because they:

  1. are original materials,
  2. were created from the time period involved,
  3. have not been filtered through interpretation or evaluation by others, and
  4. represent original thinking or experiences, reporting of a discovery, or the sharing of new information.

Examples of primary documents you could review as part of your overall study include:

  •     Autobiographies
  •     Diaries
  •     E-mails or letters
  •     Interviews (e.g., oral histories, telephone, e-mail)
  •     Newspaper articles written at the time
  •     Original Documents (e.g., birth certificates, wills)
  •     Photographs
  •     Speeches
  •     Transcripts of radio and television programs
  •     Works of art, architecture, literature, and music

Primary Sources

Subject Guide

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Chimene Tucker
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