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National History Day: What is a Primary Source?

Welcome to National History Day at Odum Library!

The librarians at Odum Library have put together this guide to help you learn about and discover primary sources available at Odum and/or on the Internet.  


Need to find journal articles, newspaper articles, magazine articles? 

Looking for historical newspaper articles? 

Need to find a book on your topic? 

Does the library have any primary sources on your topic? 

Can I trust this website?


Want to Keep Notes?  


The librarians have created a handout that you can use to record helpful keywords for your topic, record potential sources, and to take notes. Get a copy of the Google Docs handout.



Primary Sources

Context Creates Primary Sources

What makes something a primary or secondary source is not so much about when it was created, but rather its purpose in the course of your historic investigation. 


Primary Source Definition

Usually, a primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event.


Types of Primary Sources


Original Documents

  • Excerpts or translations are acceptable. Diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records. 


Creative Works 

  • Poetry, drama, novels, music, art


Relics or artifacts

  • Pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings


Examples of Primary Sources

  • Diary of Anne Frank - Experiences of a Jewish family during WWII 
  • The Constitution of Canada - Canadian History 
  • A journal article reporting NEW research or findings 
  • Weavings and pottery - Native American history 
  • Plato's Republic - Women in Ancient Greece 

Primary vs. Secondary Sources