Introduction to Primary Sources


Primary Sources are ways that researchers, historians, students, and teachers explore events, people, and things in the past. These are forms of evidence used to make an argument about an issue. Too often students lack the ability to learn from primary sources; however, this is an invaluable resource. In physical form, these sources are first-hand accounts or an original account of history. For example: Newspapers, Letter, Legal Documents, Diaries, Songs, Images, Monuments and Books written in that period, etc. It is the job of individuals to use these sources to find the truth and to ask critical questions about society. Primary sources help students build critical thinking skills, reading comprehension, deductive reasoning skills, and engage in active learning.

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Primary Sources:

  1. Oliver P. Morton, Requisition
  2. F. Marvin, Address of the First Kentucky Regiment on the Presentation of a Flag to Col. Bramlette, by the Ladies of Lexington.
  3. American Civil War Flag
  4. Coverlet
  5. Kentucky Adjutant General's Report 

Big Picture Questions: 

  • How do you decide if something is a primary source?
  • Why would you use a primary source?
  • How can you use a primary source to create an argument?


  • Connect the Dots: Have students identify the source as primary or secondary. All sources identified as a Primary Source should then be examined and students should craft an argument about them.

Secondary Literature

  • Identifying Primary and Secondary Sources.
  • Reading Stone and Steel: Statues as Primary Sources for Agricultural History. James C. Giesen and Anne E. Marshall. Agricultural History. Volume 89, No. 3. Summer 2015. P. 358-370.