Primary Sources

A guide to assist you with defining and finding primary sources

What is a Primary Source?

A 'primary' source can vary according to discipline.

In historical research, primary sources are original written or physical items created in during the time period of study, such as a letter or a concert flyer.  Books or articles that interpret or analyze a primary source are called secondary sources. Secondary sources include critical essays, encyclopedia articles, histories, textbooks, and reviews.

Primary sources (or primary research) in the sciences are original research studies usually found in published articles that include hypotheses, experiments, analyses, data, and a conclusion. Primary research can be found in all scientific fields, including the health sciences, psychology, chemistry, physics, biology, and the like. (See Primary Sources in the Sciences for more information.)

Examples of Primary Sources are:

  • Artifacts
  • Ephemera (theatre programs, leaflets, posters, broadsides, etc.)  
  • Government or Institutional Records
  • Speeches
  • Photographs
  • Diaries
  • Literature (novels, poetry)
  • Maps
  • Correspondence
  • Original Works of Art (plays, manuscripts, paintings, musical compositions, etc.)
  • Original Works of Research (scientific papers, documents of experiments)
  • Newspaper or Magazine articles published at the time under question
  • Personal records

Macdonald-Kelce Library, Archives & Special Collections

Primary sources are often found in an institution's Archives and Special Collections. The Macdonald-Kelce Library's Special Collections are located on the second floor. Here you will find books, photographs, ledgers, university journals, yearbooks, manuscripts, notes, and other ephemera that relate to the history of the University of Tampa and it's Library.

Many books housed in our general and special collections are primary sources or contain primary sources in them. Type in your search terms along with "primary sources," "correspondence," "interviews," "diary," or "documents" and you will find books like Women and the national experience : primary sources in American history / [edited by] Ellen Skinner and Theories and documents of contemporary art : a sourcebook of artists’ writings [edited by] Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz.

The library also has a historical collection of digitized student publications including the Minaret, the UT Journal, the Moroccan, and the Insighter Newsletter.

Please contact Special Collections Librarian Gino Pasi for more information about MKL Archives: gpasi@ut.edu

Macdonald-Kelce Library - The University of Tampa - 401 W. Kennedy Blvd. - Tampa, FL 33606 - 813 257-3056 - library@ut.edu - Accessibility