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Public History

America History & Life AND Historical Abstracts

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Identifying primary sources is a library catalog or database

Primary sources are items created contemporaneously to the event or time period you are studying. First hand accounts created after the fact are also considered primary sources. Visit Making Sense of Evidence for strategies for analyzing online primary materials.

Examples include:

  • Speeches
  • Diaries
  • Autobiographies/Memoirs
  • Letters
  • Interviews
  • Images
  • Audio or Video Recordings
  • Newspaper Articles
  • Magazine/Periodical Articles (written at the time studied)
  • Archival Records/Logs/Data
  • Political/Legal Documents

 

Note that some items that began their lives as secondary sources may be used as a primary source for your research. For example, a 1950's textbook discussing the Civil War and Reconstruction would not be a primary source about the Civil War. However, it could be a primary source regarding attitudes towards African Americans during the Civil Rights Era. Check the Academic Web Resources for U.S. History tab of this guide for many additional sources of primary material.

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