Metadata Input Guidelines: Primary Source

Element Name

Primary Source


The primary source field designates firsthand accounts of historical subjects.

Where Can the Primary Source Information be Found?

  • Whether or not an item is a primary source is determined by examining the item
  • For our purposes, primary sources are firsthand accounts or archival copies of historical items

How Primary Source Works in the Metadata Form

1. N/A – radio button
2. Yes – radio button
3. No – radio button
No - also see more information about required fields

How Should Primary Source be Filled in?

  • If the resource is a primary source, click the radio button marked “Yes” on the metadata entry form
  • If the resource is not a primary source, click the radio button marked “No”
  • If the item contains components that are both primary and secondary, choose “No” and include a note
  • If it is unclear whether the item is a primary source or if it cannot be determined, choose the radio button marked “N/A” (not applicable)

Is the item a primary source?

Primary Source Not a Primary Source
autobiographies biographies
a personal collection of original school photographs yearbooks
journal article written in 1943 about WWII journal article written in 2008 about WWII
original census data published by the government written history that quotes census numbers

For more clarification about a particular item:

  1. See if the item fits one of the example categories in the next section
  2. Try reading the Scholars’ Definitions of Primary Sources

Other Examples

  • Diaries, personal journals, letters, memos, postcards, manuscripts, memoirs, autobiographies, oral histories
  • Private papers, deeds, wills
  • Speeches, interviews, personal accounts, oral histories
  • Documentary photographs, audio recordings, movies, or videos
  • Government records, proceedings, court records, census data, patents
  • Records of organizations (e.g., minutes, reports, correspondence)
  • Public opinion polls, consumer surveys
  • Scientific experiments, field notes, artifacts, schematic drawings, technical reports
  • City directories
  • Maps
  • Paintings, sculptures, jewelry
  • Published materials (books and magazine/newspaper articles) written AT THE TIME about a particular event
  • Reprinted primary sources (often in reference books such as Speeches of the American Presidents or Documents of American History)


  • To describe the category of the resource, use the Resource Type element.


More Guidelines: