Primary sources are materials that provide direct evidence or firsthand testimony concerning the period or subject under investigation. These raw, uninterpreted materials document the events witnessed firsthand that have been recorded by the creator(s) of the materials. Primary sources allow you to make your own interpretations without having to rely on what other scholars have already written on the topic. Remember what is considered a primary sources is subject and research dependent. Make sure to check with a professor for what is considered a primary source in a given field of study.
Types of Sources
There are three types of sources:
1) Primary Sources
Materials that contain direct evidence, first-hand testimony, or an eyewitness account concerning a topic or event under investigation
Primary sources provide the raw data for your research
Examples: In addition to diaries, correspondence, statistics, photographs, and the many other types sources typically considered to be primary sources, you may add just anything to the list. The the subject area, the way you interpret or use a source determines whether it is a primary source or not.
2) Secondary Sources
Use primary data to solve research problems
Examples: scholarly books and articles
Secondary sources can be interpreted as primary sources when the artifactual characteristics of the item are of research value.
3) Tertiary Sources
Books or articles that synthesize and report on secondary sources for general readers
Examples include textbooks, encyclopedia articles, Wikipedia
Adapted from The Craft of Research by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, c2008.