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World History - Burt: Choosing a Primary Source

North Shore Community College Library resources for Professor Jessica Burt's World History Primary Source Research Project.

Primary Sources Defined

What is a primary source?

A Primary Source is a physical object created during the time under study. The creator is present during the experience so they can offer an inside view of a particular event, development, person or society.

In the discipline of history, primary source types can be broken into three categories:

  1. Original Documents - speech, official record, manuscript, letter, diary, autobiography / memoir, interview, film footage

  2. Creative Works - poetry, drama, novels, music, art

  3. Relics or Artifacts - pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings / architecture

Recommended Websites

Recommended Websites for Selecting a Primary Source

Museum websites, library websites, and archives affiliated with colleges or universities may also provide access to digital versions of primary source material. Consider historically appropriate terms when searching for primary source material.

Selected Reference Books

The Grove Dictionary of Art

To find a primary source in this reference book, look in the index under

  • specific time period 
  • geographic location
  • a particular culture or people.

Types of primary sources include paintings, artifacts, maps and architectural structures.