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University Library

Pan African Studies

What is a Primary Source?

Primary sources are first-hand evidence related to the time or event you are investigating. This includes accounts by participants or observers and a wide range of written, physical, audio or visual materials created at the time or later by someone with direct experience.

In the sciences and social sciences, primary sources or 'primary research' are original research experiments, studies, or observations written about by the researchers themselves.

Some Common Examples

Discipline Primary Source Examples Secondary Source Examples
History
  • Letters
  • Photographs
  • Diaries
  • History books
  • Journal Articles
  • Documentaries
Art & Literature
  • Novels
  • Paintings
  • Poems
  • Art criticism article
  • Literature criticism article
  • Art history textbook
Communications & Journalism
  • Speeches
  • Investigative Journalism
  • Newspapers & magazines
  • Journal articles on communication theories
  • Book on Journalism practices
  • Public speaking manual
Political Science
  • Laws
  • Court documents
  • Public opinion surveys
  • Article by a legal scholar
  • American government textbook
  • Encyclopedia of political theory
Science & Social Science
  • Research studies
  • Lab tests
  • Mental Health surveys
  • Reviews of other studies
  • Systematic reviews
  • Textbooks

Primary Source Databases

Websites for Primary Sources

Primary Sources at CSULA

Primary Sources in Books

Primary sources such as autobiographies, diaries, letters, photographs, and other documents are often reprinted in books. Search the library with OneSearch and combine your topic with descriptions like these.

Below are examples of books containing primary sources that can be found in the CSULA Library.

John F. Kennedy Memorial Library
California State University, Los Angeles
5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90032-8300
323-343-3988