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Primary vs. Secondary Sources

What is a primary source?

Primary sources are original materials from the time period involved and have not been filtered through interpretation or evaluation. Primary sources are original materials on which other research is based. They are usually the first formal appearance of results in physical, print, or electronic format. They present original thinking, report a discover, or share new information. The definition of a primary source may vary depending on the discipline or context.

  • Original Documents (including excerpts or translations): Diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records
  • Creative Works: Poetry, drama, novels, music, art
  • Relics or Artifacts: Pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings

What are some specific examples of primary sources?

  • Diary of Anne Frank [The experiences of a Jewish family during WWII]
  • The Constitution of Canada [Canadian History]
  • A journal article reporting NEW research or findings
  • Weavings and pottery [Native American history]
  • Plato's Republic [Women in Ancient Greece]

What is a secondary source?

A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may have pictures, quotes or graphics of primary sources in them. Some types of secondary sources include:

  • PUBLICATIONS: Textbooks, magazine articles, histories, criticisms, commentaries, encyclopedias

What are some other examples of secondary sources?

  • A journal/magazine article which interprets or reviews previous findings
  • A history textbook
  • A book about the effects of WWI