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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Rhetoric

This guide provides quick and easy access to library resources for Rhetoric assignments as well as guidance on getting research and writing help.

What is a Primary Source?

Primary sources are original artifacts or documents. They offer contemporary accounts from participants or people directly involved in an event. Examples of primary sources include, but are not limited to:

  • Diaries and literary memoirs
  • Letters/correspondence
  • Artistic works (musical and visual arts)
  • News segments/transcripts
  • Speeches
  • Interviews
  • Editorials
  • Legal documents and statistics 

While secondary sources are further removed from events and often reflect the author's perspective, using primary sources enables you to work with raw material and draw your own conclusions.

How to Find Primary Sources

The Undergraduate Library has created a guide that contains information for finding different types of primary sources. 

Identifying Primary Sources (VIDEO)

Primary Sources: INFOGRAPH

Find Primary Sources (Accessible View)

Why use primary sources?

Primary sources are original artifacts or documents. They offer contemporary accounts from participants or people directly involved in an event. Using primary sources enables you to work with the raw material and draw your own conclusions.

Where to find primary sources?

Searching on your own

How can I tell if something is a primary source?

The following characteristics can help you differentiate primary sources from those that are not:

Authors: Does their knowledge stem from personal experience or having witnessed an event?

Content: Are there references to other writings on the topic?

Currency/Timeliness: Is the date of publication evident? Is the date of the publication close to the event described?

How to Find Reference Resources

Reference sources include specialized encyclopedias and dictionaries. These can provide background information on people and events, including information about primary sources related to a specific person, place, or event. Check the following for information: