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History Day Resources: About Primary Sources

History Day competitors: Use this guide to help you find resources in the UMD Library

Primary Sources

What is a primary source?

Primary sources are documents or artifacts which were created during or near the time an event occurred. They are the creator's thoughts or observations which have not been interpreted by another individual. They may include (but are not limited to):

  • correspondence
  • diaries / journals
  • pamphlets
  • interviews
  • autobiographies
  • newspaper articles
  • creative works (poetic, literary works, musical score, etc.)
  • speeches
  • photographs
  • government documents
  • legal documents
  • artifacts (textiles, pottery, etc.)

Identifying and Evaluating Primary Sources

Finding and accessing primary sources can be challenging. By searching our library catalog and many of our databases, you can locate a variety of primary source materials. Scholars may have differing opinions as to what is considered an appropriate primary source so always check with your teacher to be sure the material is suitable.

As a supplement to library resources, you can also find excellent primary sources on the internet. Below are some websites that will help you evaluate primary sources.

Secondary Sources

What is a secondary source?

Secondary source materials are works that interpret, analyze, discuss or relate to a primary source. They are typically written after an event has occurred, or in response to an original work.

Some examples include (but are not limited to):

  • biographies
  • textbooks
  • articles & books that interpret, review, or analyze other works
  • literary criticism
  • political analyses
  • encyclopedias

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