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Education: Primary Sources/Teaching Resources

What Are Primary Sources

Primary sources are first-hand accounts, original manuscripts, or records or documents produced at the time of the event.

  • Letters,
  • Photographs
  • Speeches
  • Interviews
  • Government documents
  • Historical records
  • Personal papers
  • Artwork
  • Diaries
  • Original reports on science experiments

are some examples of primary sources.  These may be available in their original form, or they may be reproduced or reprinted in another book or microform collection.


How to Cite Primary Sources

Citing primary sources correctly is an important part of studying primary sources, for a number of reasons.

It is important--and ethically necessary--to provide full credit to the creators and publishers of documents, and to allow future scholars to find the source quickly and correctly. Citing a primary source is also crucial to critical thinking and analysis because it requires that the student think carefully about where the source came from, who made it, and in what context the student first discovered it.

Primary vs Secondary Sources

Video from Hartness Library

Library of Congress - Teaching Resources

National Archives - Teaching Resources

  • National Archives - Teacher Page
    Teachers' resources provided by the National Archives, including lesson plans and activities, school tours and activities, using primary sources, state and regional resources, featured activities and resources, and professional development opportunities.
  • National Archives - Teaching with Documents: Lesson Plans
    Includes reproducible copies of primary documents from the National Archives and various teaching activities, including lectures, demonstrations, analysis of documents, independent research, and group work. Materials include subjects such as the American Revolution, Civil War and Reconstruction, the Great Depression, and World War II.
  • National Archives - Docs Teach  
    Join the DocsTeach community to create custom activities for the classroom, share activities with students via DocsTeach Classrooms, use lessons that other educators have created, and publish activities to be used by other educators who use this site.

Selected Links to Primary Sources