Finding Primary Sources

If You Need This...Then Do This | Using Library Catalogs to Find Primary Sources


Primary Source:

  • A first-hand account of an event, created by someone who experienced or witnessed the event.
  • In science and the social sciences, an original report of research that has not been interpreted.

Secondary Source:

  • A second-hand account of an event, created by someone not present when the event took place.
  • Interpretations, analyses or summaries of an event or topic based on primary sources (or other secondary sources).


Primary Sources:

  • Autobiographies, memoirs, diaries
  • Interviews, speeches, letters, manuscripts, emails
  • First-hand newspaper and magazine accounts of an event
  • Original works of literature, art or music
  • Records of organizations and government agencies
  • Laws, treaties, maps
  • Statistics, surveys, opinion polls, scientific data
  • Research reports in the sciences or the social sciences
  • Photographs, video recordings, audio recordings
  • Objects and artifacts that reflect the time period in which they were created

Secondary and Tertiary Sources:

  • Some types of books, such as biographies, textbooks, history books
  • Some types of articles, such as literature reviews, commentaries
  • Encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks
  • Criticism of works of literature, art and music

Note: some secondary sources may include or reproduce primary source material