What are the oral sources? (With Examples)

The oral sources they are unwritten documents that may contain historical or documentary information, widely used by researchers from multiple disciplines.

The oral sources, or the transmission of the knowledge narrated with the voice, have allowed that many stories and valuable information will last for years.

What are the oral sources?  (With Examples)

Through this route they could even reach the ears of the scribes, responsible for translating knowledge into the role of illiterate societies throughout the centuries.

Oral sources within the field of historiography have been taken in many cases with caution, and their examination and criticism prior to their use is required.


Oral sources or oral history is part of the so-called historical science or historiography, being a means of knowledge for the study of the past.

This tradition has allowed for generations to preserve interesting data on multiple aspects of life: myths and legends, historical events such as wars and celebrations, and natural events such as earthquakes or volcanic eruptions.

Also have been preserved descriptions of extinct animals, uses of medicinal plants, and other relevant elements characteristic of human performance.

The 3 main types of oral sources

There are several types of oral sources. There are direct and indirect testimonies and oral traditions, which in turn are divided into proverbs, songs, stories, legends, myths and life stories.

1- Direct testimonies

The direct testimonies are the type of face-to-face testimony in which an individual transmits the information of their experience or observation.


When a person is interviewed and recorded by means of a camera or recorder. This narration is subsequently transcribed or can remain as an audiovisual source, and can be transformed into an autobiography.

2- Indirect testimonies

Indirect testimonies are narratives related to what a person tells about what they heard from others.


When a shaman or healer tells the information transmitted by his parents and grandparents about medicinal plants.

3- Oral traditions

Oral traditions are one of the most precious sources for the studies of history.

Thanks to these the chain of transmission of information moves for several decades and even centuries. Oral traditions are made up of proverbs, songs, stories, legends, myths and life stories.


Refineries are one of the traditions that tend to vary less. All kinds of information is extracted from these statements.


With the saying"each pig gets his Christmas", it can be determined that a group of people usually consume pork meat during a particular date or holiday. Based on the oral source, specific information is extracted.

Songs, stories, legends and myths

With the songs, stories, legends and myths you also get precious information about the life and beliefs of peoples and communities.


The epic poems like that of Beowulf , he Sing of the Nibelungs , he Cantar del Mío Cid or the Cantar de Roldán, narrate fabulous stories that possibly were transmitted by indirect testimonies for generations, until they were translated as manuscripts.

Life stories

Finally, with the life stories, the experiences of an individual can be reconstructed. From there, the biographical method can be developed, which is part of qualitative research in the social sciences.


With the life stories and epistles written by the apostles on the life of Jesus of Nazareth, the life of the most important figure of Christianity could be reconstructed .


  1. Azcona, J. (2015). Oral sources Retrieved on December 17, 2017 from: books.google.es
  2. History and oral sources:"The oral sources between memory and history". (2007). VIII Day the Ship of Ávila.
  3. Mendiola, F. (2007). Voices and images in the story. Oral and visual sources: historical research and pedagogical renovation. Navarra: Public University of Navarra. Retrieved on December 17, 2017 from: books.google.es
  4. Ferrando, E. (2006). Oral sources and historical research. Retrieved on December 17, 2017 from: books.google.es
  5. Borras, J. (1989). Oral sources and history teaching: contributions and problems. Retrieved on December 17, 2017 from: books.google.es

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