Primary Sources

What Are Primary Sources?

  • First-hand information from a person who witnessed or participated in an event
  • Original materials, created at the time of an event or soon thereafter
  • Can include scientific data, statistics, or an official transcript of a government proceeding


Primary sources are format neutral and can be almost anything. Below are some examples:

  • Original documents in archives and libraries
  • Collections of letters, diaries, autobiographies
  • Microforms
  • Digitized materials on the web
  • Sound recordings

Where to Find Primary Sources

W&M Libraries' Special Collections is one place to start your search for primary sources. Visit their website to learn more about their collections and search tools.

Our research guide contains useful links to resources as well tips on how to find primary sources for your research.