History 122 Women Modern American History
WHAT ARE PRIMARY SOURCES?
Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as
possible to what actually happened during an historical event or
time period. A primary source reflects the individual viewpoint
of a participant or observer.
- Diaries, journals, speeches, interviews, letters,
memos, manuscripts and other papers in which individuals
describe events in which they were participants or observers.
- Records of or information collected by government
agencies. Many kinds of records (births, deaths,
marriages; permits and licenses issued; census data; etc.)
document conditions in the society.
- Records of organizations.
The minutes, reports,
correspondence, etc. of an organization or agency serve as an
ongoing record of the activity and thinking of that
organization or agency.
- Published materials (books, magazine and journal
articles, newspaper articles) written at the time about a
particular event. While these are sometimes accounts by
participants, in most cases they are written by journalists or
other observers. The important thing is to distinguish between
material written at the time of an event as a kind of report,
and material written much later, as historical analysis.
- Photographs, audio recordings and moving
pictures or video recordings, documenting what
- Materials that document the attitudes and popular
thought of a historical time period. Again, the point is to use these
sources, written or produced at the time, as evidence of how
people were thinking.
to History 123 - Haber Research Guide