Primary source

In the study of history as an academic discipline, a primary source (also called an original source) is an artifact, document, diary, manuscript, autobiography, recording, or any other source of information that was created at the time under study. It serves as an original source of information about the topic. Similar definitions can be used in library science, and other areas of scholarship, although different fields have somewhat different definitions. In journalism, a primary source can be a person with direct knowledge of a situation, or a document written by such a person.[1]

This wall painting found in the Roman city of Pompeii is an example of a primary source about people in Pompeii in Roman times. (Portrait of Terentius Neo)

Primary sources are distinguished from secondary sources, which cite, comment on, or build upon primary sources. Generally, accounts written after the fact with the benefit (and possible distortions) of hindsight are secondary.[2] A secondary source may also be a primary source depending on how it is used.[3] For example, a memoir would be considered a primary source in research concerning its author or about their friends characterized within it, but the same memoir would be a secondary source if it were used to examine the culture in which its author lived. "Primary" and "secondary" should be understood as relative terms, with sources categorized according to specific historical contexts and what is being studied.[4]:118–246[5]