The purpose of this guide is to help you - the student, better understand the differences between primary and secondary sources, as well as provide you with ways in which to access primary source material.
Primary sources are the raw materials of history — original documents and objects which were created at the time under study. They are different from secondary sources, accounts or interpretations of events created by someone without firsthand experience. (read more at Library of Congress)
Secondary sources interpret primary sources, and include comments on, interpretations of, or discussions about the original material. It helps to think of secondary sources as second-hand information.
The definition of a primary source often varies depending upon the academic discipline and the context in which it is used. (read more on this at Lafayette College)
The following library databases are excellent for finding primary sources:
New York Times - Historical (1851-2003)
Gale in Context: World History
Finding Primary Sources
Library of Congress Collections
Finding Primary Sources on the Web
American Library Association | Reference & User Services Association.
Florida Memory Project
Division of Library & Information Services
Decennial Historical Census
United States Census Bureau
For more primary source resources visit our History Resources Guide.
You can also try adding the phrase "primary sources" to your Internet searches.
Primary source examples by discipline (from Lafayette College):
(read more on recognizing secondary sources at Harvard Library)