Skip to Main Content

African Studies Research Guide: Primary Sources

Reviews primary sources at Emory and elsewhere for research in African Studies.


Welcome to the Guide for Primary Sources in African Studies. 

If you need assistance with your research contact Phil MacLeod Interim Bibliographer for African Studies

Contact PHIL


If I am not available to a time you are free contact me at

What is a primary source?

A primary source is typically defined as a source created by people who actually saw or participated in an event and recorded that event or their reactions to it immediately after the event. In contrast, secondary source is a source created by someone either not present when the event took place or removed by time from the event. Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to the truth of what actually happened during an historical event or time period. Primary sources are the evidence left behind by participants or observers. Examples of primary sources include:

  • 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, ex. newspapers;
  • Photographs, audio recordings, moving pictures, video recordings documenting what happened;
  • Artifacts of all kinds; and
  • Research reports in the sciences and social sciences.