Primary sources are the raw evidence that historians use to interpret the past and may be defined as a record created by a person who participated in the period studied either at the time of the event or later. The key to understanding this type of source is to understand the type of content covered: these sources reflect the particular, individual perspective of the author.
Working with primary sources is a useful skill both within the discipline of history and beyond as they introduce us to key concepts when dealing with all types of information such as:
Remember - primary sources are characterised by their content, regardless of whether they are available in their original format, in microform, in digital format, or as a facsimile in a published document.
Primary sources may be found:
Evaluation of primary sources is essential to scholarly research. Can you trust the account being presented? Is the source reliable? Is the source genuine, or fake? Different types of documents require different authentication approaches. However, the questions below are a useful starting point to thinking about the type of questions you could ask when considering a source:
Primary sources found online need to be carefully considered. See the next tab Evaluating primary sources found online for some ideas.
There is no control over what is published on the web. However, there is useful, reliable and current information to be found online. The key to making good use of this is to carefully evaluate any information you intend to use.
Points to keep in mind:
Before you use information found on the web, ask yourself the following questions:
Remember that information from resources purchased and recommended by the Library is more likely to be reliable than that found on many websites.