University of Oregon

Primary Sources - what are they?

Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during a historical event or time period.

A primary source reflects the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer at the time of the event.

Some examples of primary sources include:

  • Books, magazine and newspaper articles published at the time
  • Diaries, memoirs & autobiographies
  • Maps
  • Laws & court cases
  • Speeches, interviews, letters
  • Records of government agencies or organizations
  • Public opinion polls & research data
  • Religious, philosophical or literary texts
  • Photographs, music, movies and videos
  • Art, including paintings, prints and other media
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