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First Year Seminar

What is a 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, or some other published format.

Is this a primary source?

  Taft's diary page for October 5, 1851.
Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft 1861-1865
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, interviews, letters, news film footage, official records, photographs, raw research data, speeches
Creative Works
Art, drama, films, music, novels, poetry
Relics or Artifacts
Buildings, clothing, furniture, jewelry, pottery

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