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Your guide to theater research at UCLA: Find articles, books, and more.

What Is a Primary Source?

A primary source is "first-hand" information, sources as close as possible to the origin of the information or idea under study. Primary sources are contrasted with secondary sources, works that provide analysis, commentary, or criticism on the primary source. Primary sources can include written works, recordings, or other source of information from people who were participants or direct witnesses to the events in question. Examples of commonly used primary sources include government documents, memoirs, personal correspondence, oral histories, and contemporary newspaper accounts. They also can include images, advertisements, reviews, costumes, and documentation of stage performance.

For additional sources on this guide, see:

Where Can I Find Primary Sources?

Primary sources can be published or reprinted (newspapers, for example), or they can be unpublished archival material such as one person's photographs/drawings, personal papers and diaries, etc. Some primary sources are digitized and available online, while many others are not. Original copies of primary sources are often housed in protected repositories like archives and Special Collections, which function in a different way from circulating library collections.

UCLA Library Special Collections