Peel Prairie Provinces Website has moved! This site is no longer being maintained and will be retired over the next year. Please visit to access this content.

Finding and Using Primary Sources

What is a primary source?

A record of a first-hand observation of an event, a report of scientific research, or an original work of fiction or art. Examples:

  • Personal narratives, diaries, reminiscences, memoirs, autobiographies, correspondence
  • Speeches, addresses, essays
  • Short stories, poetry, drama, fairy tales, sheet music, works of art, photographs, maps, etc.
  • Manuscripts of the above
  • Government documents, newspaper articles, audio and video recordings of news, interviews, etc.
  • Journal articles can also be primary sources, as long as the author observed the event first hand. In the sciences, journal articles are often primary sources

Why do you need to use them?

Primary sources can give you extra information and insight when you are doing your research. Primary sources can be hard to understand without some knowledge of their context. You will need background knowledge of the historical period in which they were created, and of the people who created them.