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ENGL 102 - English Composition II - Schmidt

What is a Primary Source?

Primary sources are records that provide first-hand accounts or evidence of an event, action, topic, or time period. Primary sources are usually created by individuals that directly experience an event or topic. Common examples of primary sources include: letters, diaries, speeches, interviews, photographs, government documents, artistic works, works of literature (fiction; poetry), original research reports and data sets.

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Created by the Hartness Library (Community College of Vermont)

How to Use Primary Sources

Primary sources can give direct evidence, specific details, and can provide a window into the feelings, reactions, and perceptions of a time. Primary sources might be used as an example or evidence in your paper. The downside of primary sources is that they may include bias, give a limited perspective, or lack context.

Secondary sources provide context and analysis to primary sources. They can give understanding to an artifact and respond to it, often with multiple perspectives. Secondary sources can be used to provide background information in your paper and to engage or further an argument.

For more information on how to use a source in your paper, check out these resources: