Primary sources are materials created at the time of the topic you are researching, or by an eyewitness to the topic. Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during an historical event or time period. They are not commentary about your topic, but are the topic you are commenting about.
Watch this brief video for help differentiating between primary and secondary sources:
It is not always easy to determine if a source is primary or secondary according to the definitions provided. Sources are characterized by their content, regardless of their format. In other words, you must think about the information itself rather than the "package" it comes in. Additionally, a source can be both primary and/or secondary, depending on the context in which it is used. Primary sources can often be found embedded within secondary sources. Furthermore, the definition may vary depending upon the academic discipline.
|Art||original painting||biography of an artist|
|Business||company's monthly financial report||article about inflation|
|History||diary of a civil war soldier||book about the Civil War|
|Legal Studies||transcript of a court decision||legal treatise|
|Literature||novel||critical review of a novel|
|Political Science||Treaty of Versailles||essay about the end of World War I|
|Psychology||journal article reporting results of a study||journal article on psychological theorems|
|Science||biological field notes||biology textbook|