This guide is intended to provide a general introduction to primary sources. There are many other research guides created by our subject specialists which go into more depth for those areas. Below are links to selected guides that touch on primary sources for specific disciplines.
Primary sources are a way of interacting directly with the past: they are first-hand accounts of social, political, cultural, and scientific events, recorded or created by people who had a direct connection with the event, place, or time period.
Are there exceptions? Yes! Sometimes what we think of as secondary sources become primary sources, depending on how you are using them. For example, if you are analyzing how scholars from the 1950s talked about women's literature, and consulted textbooks and articles that would normally be considered secondary sources from that period, you would be using them as primary sources for the point of view that they revealed due to their proximity to that time period. Whether a source is primary or secondary depends on how you use the source.
Literary and cultural: