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Primary Sources. Primary vs Secondary Sources. Primary Sources Firsthand account of an event or the documents associated with an event

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primary vs secondary sources
Primary vs Secondary Sources

Primary Sources

  • Firsthand account of an event or the documents associated with an event
  • Examples: letters, diaries, personal narratives, autobiographies, speeches, congressional hearings, presidential papers, newspaper articles published at the time of the event, surveys, interviews, court cases or presidential hearings, laws or treaties, scholarly articles giving results of research, minutes of organization…

This is a copy of Benedict Arnold’s coded letter to Major Andre, with decodedtranscript.A primary source.

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Primary vs Secondary Sources

Secondary sources

  • Interpretations based on analysis of primary and secondary sources
this diary is an eyewitness account of the beginning of the civil war a primary source
This diary is an “eyewitness” account of the beginning of the Civil War. A primary source.
primary vs secondary sources6
Primary vs Secondary Sources
  • This is a secondary source about women in the Civil War.
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Primary Sources


This is theSt. Louis Argus, an Afro-American newspaper.


Is this a primary source?Carter Watches Plane Crash Into River.New York Times, January 16, 2009 Friday, Section B: Column 0; Pg.14, 127 words.

  • Yes
  • No
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Primary Sources

Scientific Journal Articles

This is the first article about the discovery of DNA.

primary sources10
Primary Sources


This is a letter to Dr. Martin Luther King asking for help for a son who is in jail.


Which one of these is a primary source:

a) Adams, John. Correspondence between John Adams

and Mercy Warren., N.Y.: Arno Press, 1972.

b) Guedalla, Phillip. Father of the Revolution. N.Y.: Putnam, 1926.

  • Correct answer:
  • Incorrect answer:
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Primary Sources

Personal Narratives

This is a pioneer’s account of seeing Yosemite for the first time.

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Primary Sources

Congressional hearings, reports, prints.

Congressional Record

Can be found in Microform and on LexisNexis Congressional.

keywords for finding primary sources in the library catalog
Keywords for Finding Primary Sources in the Library Catalog
  • sources
  • letters
  • personal narratives
  • diaries
  • speeches
examples of a library catalog search for primary sources
Examples of a Library Catalog Search for Primary Sources

slave* and (sources or letters or correspondence)

“vietnam war” and “personal narrative”

“Harry Truman” and “presidential papers”

tools to use to find old periodical articles
Tools to use to find old periodical articles
  • Reader's Guide Retrospective.  1890-1982.  Index to older magazine articles.
some web sites that have primary sources
Some Web Sites that have Primary Sources
  • American Memory--Historical collections digitized by the Library of Congress.
  • Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Electronic Reading Room-FBI-- This site contains scanned documents from famous FBI cases and files such as the Lindbergh Kidnapping and the Marilyn Monroe file.
  • Missouri Digital Heritage Initiative