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Primary Sources for Research

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Mary Linden Sepulveda

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Mary Sepulveda

Coordinator of Collection Development, Special Collections & Archives

Defining Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary sources are the firsthand testimony or direct evidence left behind by participants or observers documenting a time period, an event, people or ideas.

“Primary Sources originate in the time period that historians are studying. They may include personal memories, government documents, transcripts of legal proceedings, newspapers, oral histories and traditions, archeological and biological evidence and visual sources like paintings or photographs.” (Storey, William Kelliher. Writing History: A Guide for Student. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, p18)

Secondary works analyze and comment on primary sources. Typically, they are books and articles by writers who are interpreting past events.