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What is a Primary Source?

A primary source of information is a firsthand or original account of an event. These kinds of sources offer an inside view to an event, and they are usually unedited and unevaluated. 

 

Identifying Primary Sources

When deciding whether or not a source would be considered primary, think about who created the item. Is the author someone who directly experienced the topic that you are researching? Is the document an original copy? If the answer to these questions is yes, then you are dealing with a primary source.

 

Examples

  • Autobiographies
  • Photographs
  • Letters
  • Original Research
  • Maps
  • Government Documents
  • Speeches

What is a Secondary Source?

A secondary source interprets or analyzes a primary source, usually by attempting to explain, analyze, or summarize it. Secondary sources provide commentary on events rather than firsthand accounts of events.

 

Identifying Secondary Sources

When deciding whether or not an item is a secondary source, ask yourself whether this is a firsthand or secondhand account. Remember that secondary sources typically analyze or comment on primary sources; they can be a excellent tools to help you gain a better understanding of a topic or issue, but they are not considered firsthand accounts. 

 

Examples

  • Biographies
  • Editorials
  • Magazines
  • Literary Criticisms
  • Journal Articles