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HIS 227 The Vietnam War - Army: Primary Sources


Primary Sources

DEFINITIONPrimary Source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event.  These sources serve as the raw materials historians use to interpret and analyze the past.

They are different from secondary sources, accounts that retell, analyze, or interpret events, usually at a distance of time or place.

Examples of primary sources are:

  • Diaries, journals, speeches, interviews, letters, memos, manuscripts, and other papers in which individuals describe events in which they were participants or observers;
  • Memoirs and autobiographies;
  • Records of organizations and documents produced by agencies of government;
  • Published materials are written at the time of the event;
  • Photographs, audio recordings, moving pictures, video recordings documenting what happened;
  • Artifacts of all kinds; ( such as works of art or ancient roads, buildings, tools, and weapons) and born-digital items (e.g. emails)
  • Research reports in the sciences and social sciences.

Source: Adapted from Primary sources FAU Libraries  and "Primary Sources on the Web: Finding, Evaluating, Using", American Library Association, January 12, 2015. (Accessed September 27, 2020)

How do you know if a source is Primary or Secondary?

  • How does the author know the details ( ex: names, dates and times)?
  • Was the author present at the event or arrive shortly after the event?
  • Where does the information come from  personal experience, eyewitness accounts reports written by others?

Where can you find Primary Sources?

Primary sources are available through the QV Library databases. Click on the Articles  & Databases tab on the left-hand side of the libguide to see the recommended list of QV Library databases.

Primary .vs. Secondary Sources

Understanding Primary & Secondary Sources