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HIST / HUM STUD 103: World Civilizations I

Heidi Sherman

Primary Sources

A primary source is a document or piece of evidence written or created during the time period you are studying. A primary source allows you to examine evidence firsthand without being affected by other opinions.

Types of Primary Sources:

  • Diaries
  • Letters
  • Memos/E-mails
  • Speeches (both the text of the speech & the giving of the speech)
  • Manuscripts
  • Autobiographies
  • Interviews
  • Patents
  • Laws, legislation, court rulings
  • Newspaper & magazine articles as an event happened
  • News footage
  • Raw data
  • Artifacts: buildings, clothes, jewelry, toys, fossils
  • Journal articles reporting original research or an experiment
  • Official records of governments, agencies, organizations: meeting minutes, reports, vital records (e.g., Census records)
  • Creative works: poetry, novels, drama, music, art, photography, movies, scripts, performances
  • Technical reports (i.e., accounts of work done on research projects)

Note on Primary Sources

Finding primary sources for this time period can be a more a more difficult task than finding primary sources for more modern history where photography, diaries, and videos are available.

Keep in mind you may be able to utilize the primary sources found in some of your secondary sources. For example, you might find a map in a book from the time period you are studying or find an image of hieroglyphics you want to utilize. While the book would be a secondary source, those parts could count as primary sources. 

If you have questions about this or need clarification, ask a librarian or your instructor. 

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