Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Africana Studies Library Guide

A curated selection of resources and sources on African and African diasporic culture, history, literature, and more.

What are Primary Sources?

Primary sources are used as evidence to support an interpretation or argument. With that in mind, a primary source is typically an item written or created during the time period under study and created by someone with a first-hand experience.  Examples may include:

  • Original documents like diaries, film footage, manuscripts, newspaper articles, and official records
  • Creative works like novels, poetry, or music
  • Artifacts like furniture, clothing, buildings

Contrast these with secondary sources, which interpret and analyze primary sources.

Finally, a tertiary source is one that synthesizes a body of secondary sources, usually to explain the range of arguments scholars have had on a topic (e.g. literature review), or to provide the reader with generally agreed upon facts and understanding (e.g. encyclopedias, textbooks).

But wait! Scholars working on the history of education might use textbooks as evidence for how subjects were taught in a particular time period. In this case, the textbooks become evidence of educational practice, and would be considered primary sources for this project.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.