A primary source is a document or record containing firsthand information or original data on an event, object, person, or work of art. Primary sources are usually created by individuals who experienced the event and recorded or wrote about it. Because of this, primary sources usually reflect the viewpoint of the participant or observer.
Examples of primary sources include:
|Original research studies have a hypothesis, methods, results and a discussion/conclusion||Speeches||Oral Histories||Manuscripts||Court Cases||Play or Short story|
|Letters||Memoirs||Pamphlets||Official recordings of a business, including financial ledgers and labor files||Artifacts||Audio or Video recordings|
|Diaries||Photographs||Newspapers written at the time of the event||Maps||Patents||Census Figures|
Determining whether or not something is a primary source depends on the topic you are researching. Primary sources are almost always produced in the time period you are researching.
Common primary sources for U.S. slavery topics include:
- Slave narratives
- Diaries, letters, and biographies
- Newspaper articles written at the time
Asking the Right Questions
Here are some questions you can ask when you are ready to study your primary source document. These questions can help you gather evidence from a source so you can use it to support claims in your assignments.
- What is it?
- Who made it?
- When was it made?
- How was it made?
- Where was it made?
Questions about Purpose/Meaning:
- Why was the source written/made?
- Who is the intended audience or user?
- What is the bias of the source of this information?
- What historical information does this source provide?
- What was the original purpose of the source?
- How does this source alter or fit into existing interpretations of the past?