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English & American Literature: Primary Sources

What are Primary Sources?

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. They also include original creative works such as poetry, fiction, and plays. 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

Primary Sources by Genre

Primary Sources by Time Period

Historic Newspapers

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Archives

Archives contain primary sources such as letters, records, and other documents, organized into collections, that can be navigated by finding aids. You may need to first figure out which archive may have collections relevant to your search.

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