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Research Using Primary Sources

What is a Primary Source?

Primary sources are usually defined as first hand information or data that is generated by witnesses or participants in past events. Primary sources are characterized not by their format but rather by the information they convey and their relationship to the research question. The interpretation and evaluation of these sources becomes the basis for other research.

Why Do Research Using Primary Sources?

People seek out primary sources because they are looking for direct evidence and information in order to better understand objects, people, places, and events from the past. Researchers use these materials for many reasons, including researching historical people, places, and events; family history; literary analysis; statistical research; studying performance practice; legal research; and marketing.

Montgomery County Extension Group Photograph, 1927 Montgomery County Extension Group Photograph, 1927, Archives of the Maryland Extension Homemakers Council, Historical Manuscripts, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries

  • Who were these women?
  • What was the Extension Homemakers Council?
  • What can I learn from this photograph?