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HSS 540 - Fall of Communism: Primary Sources

Primary Source or Secondary Source?

A primary source documents shows direct, immediate or firsthand knowledge of a subject or event.  Primary source documents  are written at the time or on the scene where an event occurred.

Secondary sources lack direct knowledge of a topic or event. These include biographies, monographs, and general periodical articles. Secondary sources are written by people who did not witness or experience an event but may have a great deal of knowledge about the topic.

Historians use primary sources to develop secondary sources!

Primary Source Types

  • Autobiographies
  • Diaries/Journals
  • Letters
  • Speeches
  • Travel Accounts
  • Messages and Papers
  • Government Documents
  • Magazine/Newspaper Articles
  • Manuscripts
  • Photographs
  • Other Non-Text Materials

Primary Sources on the Web

Primary Sources in Databases