Columbus State University Archives

What is a Primary Source?

The first question you may have is what exactly is a primary source? A primary source may be defined as: —a source 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. You may have also heard of secondary sources. A secondary source is: a —source that interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may have pictures, quotes, and/or graphics of primary sources in them. An encyclopedia entry or your history textbook are examples of secondary soures that usually contain primary sources.