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Stony Brook University

WRT 101

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.

Selected Primary Sources on the Open Web