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The Tambo Paper: A Guide: Primary Sources

A list of references and tools to help you successfully navigate and complete your research paper

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.)

Secondary Sources

What is a secondary source?

In contrast, a secondary source of information is one that was created later by someone who did not experience first-hand or participate in the events or conditions you’re researching. They tend to provide analysis or commentary on a historical event within a different context. Secondary sources include but are not limited to: 

  • Books
  • Biographies
  • Histories
  • Scholarly journals and articles
  • Textbooks
  • Literary Criticism 
  • Book. art and theater reviews
  • Newspaper and magazine articles that interpret

Online Primary Sources: General History

Analyzing Primary Sources


  • Who created this primary source?

  • When was it created?

  • Where does your eye go first?


  • What do you see that you didn’t expect?

  • What powerful words and ideas are expressed?


  • What feelings and thoughts does the primary source trigger in you?

  • What questions does it raise?


  • What was happening during this time period?

  • What was the creator’s purpose in making this primary source?

  • What does the creator do to get his or her point across?

  • What was this primary source’s audience?

  • What biases or stereotypes do you see?


  • Test assumptions about the past.

  • Find other primary or secondary sources that offer support or contradiction.


  • Provide reasons and specific evidence to support your conclusions.

  • Identify questions for further investigation