Guide to Primary and Secondary Sources

Last Updated: Sunday, 24 May 2015

Primary Sources

Primary sources are materials that offer “eyewitness” or first-hand accounts of people, places, and events of the past.

·      Letters, diaries, and other documents in which people record their thoughts, observations, experiences, and activities.

·      Records of governmental agencies (birth certificates, court records, etc.) and businesses (annual reports, meeting minutes, etc.)

·      Photographs, audio and video recordings of people, places, and events.

·      Published materials (books, articles) written at the time an event occurred, such as a newspaper article. If a publication is written by an author looking back in time, it is usually a secondary source, but even secondary sources may include transcripts or reproductions of primary sources.

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are works that study or interpret people, places, and events of the past. Secondary sources are typically published works like books or articles.

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