Primary sources were either created during the time period being studied or were created at a later date by a participant in the events being studied, such as a childhood memoir. They are original documents (i.e., they are not about another document or account) and reflect the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer. Primary sources represent direct, uninterpreted records of the subject of your research study.
Primary sources enable you to get as close as possible to understanding the lived experiences of others and discovering what actually happened during an event. However, what constitutes a primary or secondary source depends on the context in which it is being used. For example, David McCullough’s biography of John Adams could be a secondary source for a paper about John Adams, but a primary source for a paper about how various historians have interpreted the life of John Adams. When in doubt, ask a librarian for assistance!
Reviewing primary source material can be of value in improving your overall research paper because they:
Are original materials,
Were created from the time period involved,
Have not been filtered through interpretation or evaluation by others, and
Represent original thinking or experiences, reporting of a discovery, or the sharing of new information.
Examples of primary documents you could review as part of your overall study include: