There are many types of primary sources. Definitions vary by academic discipline.
Common elements to all types of primary sources are
Primary source materials have not been edited, evaluated, analyzed, combined, commented on, or changed by a person other than the creator.
Is a book a primary source?
The format, such as a book, newspaper, or film, does not determine whether the item is a primary source. Content and context are the determining factors.
What about translations?
Official or authorized translations are generally considered primary. Unofficial translations are usually not considered primary because the translator may have biases or may not be fully fluent in the subject matter. Translations generated by software, such as Google Translate, are never, ever, considered primary sources.
What are the types of Primary Sources?
“I was there” – Personal Accounts
Among the most frequently used primary sources are writings or interviews that come directly from the people who were present when the event being studied occurred. This material, created by individuals who directly experienced or were involved in the subject under investigation, is considered primary. The “I was there” type of primary source is referred in many different terms:
In additional to personal accounts, documents, such as court records, laws, hearings, treaties, death certificates, maps, photographs, that originate from or were created at the time of the event being studied are also primary sources. In some cases, documents created shortly after the event can also be primary.
Original creations by a person, such as letters, diaries, an autobiography, poem, musical score, work of art, screenplays, military field notes, a scientist’s lab notebooks, or an anthropologist’s diaries are primary.
Numerical data is a primary source. Data from public opinion polls may be primary. Once the raw data is interpreted or combined with other data it may no longer be primary.
Tools, clothing, buildings, films, TV shows, or tangible objects from a particular period can be a primary source.
Why are primary sources needed in research?
Original materials provide valuable insights into the culture, perspectives, actions, and conditions, making them essential for analysis and understanding of a particular time period, event or subject.
What are some examples of primary sources?
A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may include images of or quotes from primary sources. Some types of secondary sources include: journal/magazine articles, textbooks, commentaries, and encyclopedias.
In the strictest sense, translations are secondary sources unless the translation is provided by the author or issuing agency. Consult your professor if you have questions about a source.
Secondary sources are interpretations and analyses based on primary sources.
For example, an autobiography is a primary source while a biography is a secondary source.
Typical secondary sources include:
Please note that a book is simply a format. You can find primary and secondary sources published in book form.
Often secondary and primary sources are relative concepts. Typical secondary sources may be primary sources depending on the research topic.