This is the "Primary Sources" page of the "Research Skills - Primary and Secondary Sources" guide.
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Research Skills - Primary and Secondary Sources  

Last Updated: Aug 25, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Primary Sources

Primary Sources

Primary sources are documents created during the time period that is being studied such as newspaper accounts from WWII, raw data like census statistics, oral histories from participants/observers of a particular time period or event, or articles/reports that present research methodology and detailed findings from original research studies.

Primary sources are original materials that have not been evaluated or interpreted.


Personal records/documents:

  • diaries, journals, letters, manuscripts, speeches, interviews, and papers

Autobiographies & Memoirs

Government Documents/Records

Published Materials:

  • books, magazine & journal articles, reports, and newspaper articles written at the time

Audio/Visual Materials:

  • photographs, paintings, sculptures, films, sound & video recordings


  • physical objects from that time, such as clothes, furniture, toys, and buildings

Works of literature

  • novels, poems, short stories

Statistical Data/Survey Research


Original Research

  • case studies, longitudinal and follow-up studies, qualitative/quantitative research, empirical studies, clinical case reports, etc.



  1. "We Can Do It." Color poster by J. Howard Miller. 179-WP-1563. Courtesy of NARA.
  2. "An eager school boy gets his first experience in using War Ration Book Two. With many parents engaged in war work, children are being taught the facts of point rationing for helping out in family marketing." Alfred Palmer, February 1943. 208-AA-322H-1. Courtesy of NARA.
  3. War Manpower job flyer promoting women to register for War Jobs., 1942. Courtesy of NARA.


Resources for Librarians and Educators, Credits
Original UI&U Library Research Guide © 2006 by Union Institute & University Library. This tutorial incorporates material from Searchpath, a tutorial developed by Board of Trustees of Western Michigan University © 2001-2002, from SBU Library Research Guide material © 2004 by the Stony Brook University Libraries, from TILT, a tutorial developed by the Digital Information Literacy Office for the University of Texas System Digital Library, © 1998-2002, and from TIP, a tutorial developed by University of Wyoming Libraries © 2005. This material may be reproduced, distributed, or incorporated provided that appropriate credit is given.


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