What is a "primary source?"

In the social sciences and humanities, a primary source is generally a contemporaneous record (a record from the time) of an event or action or idea.

If, sometime later, someone writes about the event/action/idea, looking back on it, it is a secondary source because the author has the benefit of additional information (events that followed, for example, additional details about what actually occurred, additional evidence that may disprove an earlier idea, etc.)

In the social sciences, datasets (of responses or observations) are also primary sources.

Selected Primary Sources

These are just a few of the many primary source databases we have. There are many more. You can also find primary sources, like diaries, autobiographies, correspondence, documents, and more, by searching the library catalog. Ask a librarian!