University Libraries / Tutorial Home / Primary Sources: Humanities / Introduction to Primary Sources in the Humanities
  Log in

Introduction to Primary Sources in the Humanities

What is a Primary Source in the Humanities?

You are currently in the module on "Introduction to Primary Sources in the Humanities" in a larger tutorial. Each research tutorial includes modules of topics related to the overall tutorial learning objectives. Please go through all the pages in this module by clicking on the “Next” button on the bottom of the page in order to progress. If you would like to track your progress, be sure to log in with your UNCG credentials at the top right of the module. Each module includes Quick Checks on every page. These Quick Checks do not produce a certificate; they are optional and do not track your progress. Certificates are created by completing a whole tutorial, so be sure to complete all the modules within a tutorial in order to generate a certificate. You can also take a screenshot of your progress page. 

UNCG Libraries Research Tutorials Help

Time needed to complete this module: 15 minutes

Learning Objectives: 

  • Understand what a primary source is in the humanities
  • Be able to analyze and contextualize primary sources in the humanities
  • Know where to find primary sources in the humanities

A video from the University of Guelph McLaughlin Library describing what primary sources are and how students can use them. Closed Captioning on the video is working and accurate. The “Show More” button under the video’s description also includes a transcript of the video.

Before beginning your research, it is important to come up with questions you want your research to answer. These questions will help form your research and the answers from your sources will help guide your writing.

Primary sources in the humanities are the evidence of experiences and events from the past. They are contemporaneous, meaning they exist at the same time, as the period of your research. They can be uninterpreted resources created during a certain time period, or resources created later by someone who witnessed or participated in the events you are researching. Primary sources allow the researcher to get as close to a historical event or experience as possible. They help to support a researcher’s questions and arguments in their writing.

Primary sources can take many forms. Some examples include books and memoirs, letters, diaries, newspaper and magazine articles, maps, and oral histories. Visual materials like photos, artwork, and videos also give insight for their factual information and can provide details of everyday life, such as type of clothing and/or style. Uninterpreted data sets, like those from census records, are also considered primary sources.

Quick Check: