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Stony Brook University

WRT 101: Primary Sources

What are Primary Sources?

Primary sources refer to documents or other items that provide first-hand, eyewitness accounts of events.
A newspaper article written at the time an event took place (Pearl Harbor, for example) is a primary source. 

Some examples of primary source materials are:

  • Printed texts, including books, newspapers, diaries, pamphlets, magazines, and journals
  • Manuscripts
  • Maps
  • Paintings
  • Artifacts
  • Audio and video recordings
  • Oral histories
  • Photographs
  • Dissertations
  • Government documents

Primary sources are different from secondary sources are written later and usually comment on or analyze historic events or original documents.

Audio and Visual Resources

Internet Archive - Probably the best overall collection of audio-visual material that could be used for primary sources. 

YouTube - Great resource for finding speeches and historic news items, as well as musical and cinematic treasures.

Finding Primary Sources

To find primary sources at Stony Brook, use the Library Catalog and include the word SOURCES.

For example, for primary sources on slavery, do KEYWORD ANYWHERE search in the catalog for slavery and sources.

Also try these words below:

  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Interviews
  • Personal narratives

More Primary Sources

Primary Sources on the Web