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University of Texas University of Texas Libraries

Hebrew / Jewish / Israel Studies

General guide for Hebrew / Jewish / Israel Studies at the University of Texas at Austin Libraries

Find Primary Sources

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Video via Hartness Library

What is a Primary Source?

Primary sources are produced by participants or direct observers of an issue, event or time period. These sources may be recorded during the event or later on, by a participant reflecting upon the event. In some cases, it will be difficult to obtain the original source, so you may have to rely on copies (photocopies, microfilm, digital copies). Copies or transcriptions of a primary source still count as a primary source.  

Some examples of primary sources include:

  • Newspapers
  • Speeches
  • Government documents
  • Legal documents
  • Public opinion polls
  • Personal materials, including letters, diaries, interviews, memoirs, autobiographies, and oral histories
  • Images
  • Works of art (novels, plays, paintings, etc.)

How to Analyze Primary Sources

While primary sources are often desirable for the raw, non-interpreted information they provide, it is important to analyze them for your research. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is the creator and what was their relationship to the event or issue?
  • Why did the creator produce this source?
  • Was the source for personal use?  For a large audience?
  • Was the source intended to be public (newspaper) or private (correspondence)?
  • How neutral was the creator?  What biases or interests might have influenced how the source was created?
  • Can the source be substantiated by other primary sources? Can you confirm what the creator is saying?

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Course Requirements

If you are unsure whether or not a source you have found meets the primary source requirement for a particular class or project, please ask your professor

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