Primary Sources

Primary Sources

Primary sources are original materials that have not been evaluated or interpreted.

They are evidence created during the time period that is being studied such as newspaper accounts from WWII, raw data like census statistics, oral histories from participants/observers of a particular time period or event, or articles/reports that present research methodology and detailed findings from original research studies.


Personal records/documents:

  • diaries, journals, letters, manuscripts, speeches, interviews, and papers

Autobiographies & Memoirs

Government Documents/Records

Published Materials:

  • books, magazine & journal articles, reports, and newspaper articles written at the time

Audio/Visual Materials:

  • photographs, paintings, sculptures, films, sound & video recordings


  • physical objects from that time, such as clothes, furniture, toys, and buildings

Works of literature

  • novels, poems, short stories

Statistical Data/Survey Research


Original Research

  • case studies, longitudinal and follow-up studies, qualitative/quantitative research, empirical studies, clinical case reports, etc.




  1. “We Can Do It.” Color poster by J. Howard Miller. 179-WP-1563. Courtesy of NARA.
  2. “An eager school boy gets his first experience in using War Ration Book Two. With many parents engaged in war work, children are being taught the facts of point rationing for helping out in family marketing.” Alfred Palmer, February 1943. 208-AA-322H-1. Courtesy of NARA.
  3. War Manpower job flyer promoting women to register for War Jobs., 1942. Courtesy of NARA.