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Primary Sources

Characteristics

The humanities encompass various fields: art (studio, especially art history), history, literature, music, theater & dance, and religion.

Primary sources are any material/artifacts from a period that researchers/scholars study that convey the experience from that time.

Secondary sources are scholarly treatments of a topic that utilize primary and secondary sources to explain the past or the subject. 

Tertiary sources contain both primary and secondary sources (scholarly analyses). 

Examples

The humanities share many types of the same primary sources. While the primary source depends on the topic or question one is researching. Here are many examples of primary sources.

 

Written Oral Visual Digital
Books
Journals
Letters
Annals
Dissertations
Public records
Census data
Eyewitness accounts
Scripture
Inscriptions
Newspapers
Diaries
Chronicles
Government documents
Personal or institutional papers
Genealogies
Manuscripts
Laws
Scrolls
Period literature & poetry
Speeches
Anecdotes
Sagas
Oral histories
Music Interviews (not videotaped)
Ballads
Legends
Telephone conversations
Recordings (tape & records)
Myths
Sculpture
Photographs
Portraits
Maps
Cartoons
Coins
Videotapes
Films
Posters
Engravings
Models & dioramas
Woodcuts
Architecture
Etchings
Relics
Historical paintings
Artifacts

Computer generated graphics
Faxes
Electronic mail
Machine readable databases
Web pages

From Using Internet Primary Sources to Teach Critical Thinking Skills in History, Craver, KathleenD 16.2 .C79 1999, p.18-19

Where to Find Primary and Secondary Sources

Typical tools that we use for research can provide us with primary & secondary sources: catalogs, discovery products (e.g. ONESEARCH), databases (some have only secondary sources; some only primary sources & some both), & the Web.

Video Briefly Describing Primary & Secondary Sources

 

Last Updated: Jul 24, 2024 2:57 PM