Is a newspaper article a primary source?

Yes. However, this is only true when discussing newspaper articles which are used for historical research. This is because newspaper articles, written about a specific event immediately after its occurence, can be viewed as primary sources. However, it is important to ask a number of questions about the article itself before you decide to include it in your research as a primary source. Read on to see what these questions are, and why it is important to ask them.

Newspaper articles as primary sources

Newspaper articles are great starting points for research, and can sometimes be invaluable vaults of information, but when you want to use a newspaper article in your paper, you need to know why. Many people assume that newspaper articles are primary sources, but it's important to ask yourself some questions about the article before you include it in your research.

  • Who wrote the article? An expert, a journalist, an eyewitness to an event?
  • Why was the article written? In response to a current event, to spread news, to share an opinion?
  • When was the article published? Was the article published before or after the event it discusses?

When is a newspaper article a primary source?

This very much depends on the answers to the questions you asked of the article earlier. These answers are the basis of whether or not the content is original or, an analysis or, an opinion. If you come to the conclusion that the content is original, then, yes, the article qualifies as a primary source. If the article is a feature about a new innovation in technology or a current trend, then it is a secondary source. Likewise, if it is an interview, because the interview will have been edited.

Articles written and included in daily newspapers, before the internet, were the latest and most up to date reports of events. Often, there was a morning and an evening edition of a daily, and as such, these are often regarded as primary sources.

However, it is important to remember that a newspaper is put together by an editor, and the editor can cut and paste articles in a particular order and in a particular way to fit the editorial style they are looking for.