Skip to main content


Ethnomusicology Research Guide

What Are Primary Resources?

Primary resources provide firsthand evidence of historical events. They are generally unpublished materials such as manuscripts, photographs, maps, artifacts, audio and video recordings, films, oral histories, postcards, and posters. In some instances, published materials can also be viewed as primary materials for the period in which they were created. In contrast, secondary resources, such as textbooks, synthesize, analyze, and interpret primary materials.

Examples of Primary Sources

  • Diaries, journals, speeches, interviews, letters, memos, manuscripts and other papers in which individuals describe events in which they were participants or observers;
  • Memoirs and autobiographies;
  • Records of organizations and agencies of government;
  • Published materials written at the time of the event;
  • Photographs;
  • Artifacts of all kinds;
  • Research reports in the sciences and social sciences;
  • Fieldwork;
  • Audiovisual recordings;
  • Films; and
  • Original creative works, such as music, artwork, architectural plans, poems, novels, movies, television shows, and advertisements.

Check out the Library of Congress Primary Source Analysis Tools by material type to see the kinds of questions you should be asking when looking at primary sources.

And remember, you will usually find primary resources in archives and special collections. At UCLA, you should check out Library Special Collections, the Center for Oral History Research, and the Ethnomusicology Archive, among others.