Primary resources consist of original sources of information, created during the time period being studied or at a later date by a participant in the events being studied. They reflect the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer and include:
- diaries, journals, witnesses, interviews (first person accounts)
- government documents (census info, tax records, raw statistics)
- films, poems, novels, short stories (when they are the subject of your essay)
Secondary resources consist of information produced using primary resources; they interpret or analyze primary resources and include:
- history books
- essays and articles written about an event by someone who was not present
- films, poems, novels, short stories
Rubric: Analyzing a Primary Source Cyberbee.com
Rubric: Primary Source Analysis Fayetteville State University
Worksheets: Using Primary Resources WI Historical Society
Try These First
To locate primary documents related to American history, try these sites first:
- AmDocs: Documents for the Study of American History with a Quick Find by date
- American Memory From the Library of Congress; Is a gateway to primary source materials relating to the history and culture of the United States.
- Core Documents of U.S. Democracy Basic federal government documents that define American democracy
- Archival Research Catalog Search the National Archives.gov for some of the most significant documents on U.S. history
- Civil Rights Digital Library Includes unedited news film and television archives.
Primary Document Resources on the Web
- Web Sites with Primary Documents (UW-Stout) Includes categories for Native Americans, Asian Americans, etc.
- Repositories of Primary Sources 5000+ websites describing holdings of manuscripts, archives, rare books, historical photographs, and other primary sources; divided geographically and alphabetically
Databases at UW-Stout Library
The University Library subscribes to several databases which include primary resources:
These are specialized databases which include primary resources:
- British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries
- Gerritsen Collection-Women's History Online
- North American Women's Letters and Diaries
- Women and Social Movements
- Allow time! You may need to identify a major resource and sift through a great deal of text to identify useful information.
- Be patient and persistent! There may be several steps in your research--identifying an appropriate collection, then using different search methods to view materials, and selecting appropriate content.
- Ask questions! Primary documents need to be interpreted. Use How to Read Primary Documents
- Cite materials properly! Use the Citing Primary Resources page for examples of citations in MLA and APA formats.