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WRTG 3030 Science and Society: Historical Research

Primary Sources

Hi everyone!  Welcome to the Historical Research section of your guide. Using the resources here, you will be able to access some primary resources that will be helpful for your projects.



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Frederick Carey
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What is a Primary Source?

Primary sources are original artifacts or documents. They are usually defined as first hand information that are communicated by witnesses or participants in past events. Primary sources are characterized not by their format but rather by the information they convey and their relationship to your research question.

Examples of primary sources include, but are not limited to:

  • Diaries and literary memoirs
  • Letters/correspondence
  • Artistic works (musical and visual arts)
  • News segments/transcripts
  • Speeches
  • Interviews
  • Editorials
  • Legal documents and statistics 
  • Eyewitness accounts
  • Experiment results
  • Interviews
  • Surveys
  • Fieldwork
  • Emails/ blogs/ listservs
  • Creative writing
  • Audio and video


Created during the time period by individuals involved in the event

Examples: architectural model or drawing, building or structure, letter, motion picture, organizational records, painting, personal account, photograph, print, sculpture, sketch book, contemporary review, interview, letter, manuscript, personal account, published work, score, recording.

Social Sciences

May include data collected about people, events, or environment

Examples: artifact, field notes, fossil, photograph,company statistics, consumer survey, data series, government report, interview, letter, news report, personal account, press release, public opinion survey, speech, treaty or international agreement, case study, clinical case report, experimental replication, follow-up study, longitudinal study, treatment outcome study, oral history.


Report or original findings 

Examples:  field notes, plant specimen, research report, building or structure, map, geological survey, patent, schematic drawing, technical report.