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Primary Sources on the Web: Home

Traditionally primary source items are found where they are physically stored. Located within boxes behind the walls of a library, museum or archives. Now, more and more primary sources are made available through the internet for viewing any time of day.

Primary Source Gallery

Evaluating Primary Sources on the Web

The internet can be tricky! Before using a primary document (or any item on the web) you need to determine who created the website and if the material is accurate. Sometimes sites manipulate or alter primary source materials to persuade or influence viewers. Some sites might not properly cite materials. Here are some guidelines to help you determine credibilty.

Who created the website?

  • Examine URLS
    • .gov, .edu, .org, .musem 
  • Check author or credentials 
    • "about" link, contact address, email
  • Purpose of the website
    • "about" link, mission statement, look for an agenda
  • Origin of document
    • site clearly states where the item came from

Primary vs Secondary Sources



Primary Sources

Primary sources are records of events created when the event occurred such as:

• letters • journals
• diaries • manuscripts
• newspapers • interviews
• photographs • oral histories
• memoirs • government documents
• audio recordings • video recordings
• artwork • statistics/data
• artifacts/ephemera • court records







Sometimes primary sources reflect the events after they have occurred such as in the case of oral histories or memoirs. 

These sources serve as the raw material to interpret the past, and when they are used along with secondary sources (previous interpretations) they provide the resources necessary for historical research.

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources offer analysis and interpretations of primary sources. They might use primary sources to persuade a reader to hold a certain opinion. 

  • encyclopedias
  • dictionaries
  • textbooks
  • published books about a subject
  • journal articles


Digital Preservation Librarian

Profile Photo
Lori Thompson
Special Collections Department
James E. Morrow Library Rm 211
Subjects: History