Primary Sources are original documents or accounts created at the time of an historical event or era. Memoirs, oral histories, and interviews are considered primary sources when they record direct eyewitness accounts to an event or era.
Types of primary sources include:
These sources serve as the raw material to interpret the past, and when they are used along with previous interpretations by historians, they provide the resources necessary for historical research.
Secondary sources comment upon, explain, or interpret primary sources. They may include scholarly books, journal and magazine articles, encyclopedias, dictionaries, biographies, reviews, and textbooks. Keep in mind that, like any good retelling, the closer a secondary source is to the primary information, the more accurate.
Together, primary and secondary sources make up the key element of quality historical research.
Not sure what you're looking at? Consult your teacher or a librarian.
Source: ALA's Reference and User Service Association
Primary materials need to be carefully read and interpreted. Some questions to ask include:
For more explanation on how to use and interpret primary sources see:
Here are a few links to tutorials and other pages help you get the most out of these Primary Source repositories.