Characteristics of Primary Sources

  • Primary sources can either be first-hand observation/analysis, or accounts contemporary with the events described.
  • Primary sources document events, people, viewpoints of the time.
  • When research is more era, rather than event driven, scope of possible primary sources broadens considerably.
  • Primary sources represent one person's perspective; frequently will be used with secondary/tertiary sources to broaden the lens through which a researcher is looking at an event, era, or phenomenon.
  • It is important when using anything as a primary source that the researcher be cognizant of and sensitive to the bias of the observer/analyzer that created the primary source, and also to the broader cultural biases of the era in which the primary source was created.
  • The researcher's perspective, or the arguments or points for which a researcher plans to use a primary source as evidence, is significant in determining what sources will be primary.
  • Reproductions of primary sources remain primary for many research purposes.
  • Some attributes are based more on the perspective represented in the source and context in which the source is being used by researcher.



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