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Prof. Vecchio - 19th Century U.S. History: Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary Sources can be found using a combination of Internet and Library Sources. 

Think about how you will use these types of sources to answer your research question.

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

When evaluating the quality of the information you are using, it is useful to identify if you are using a Primary, Secondary, or Tertiary source. By doing so, you will be able recognize if the author is reporting on his/her own first hand experiences, or relying on the views of others.

Source Type Examples

Primary

A primary source is a first person account by someone who experienced or witnessed an event. This original document has not been previously published or interpreted by anyone else.

  • First person account of an event
  • First publication of a scientific study
  • Speech or lecture
  • Original artwork
  • Novel (fiction) or film
  • Handwritten manuscript
  • Letters between two people
  • A diary
  • Historical documents, e.g. Bill of Rights

Secondary

A secondary source is one step removed from the primary original source. The author is reexamining, interpreting and forming conclusions based on the information that is conveyed in the primary source.

 

  • Journal article reporting on a scientific study
  • Newspaper and Magazine articles
  • Review of a music CD or art show
  • Critique of a work of fiction or film
  • Biography

Tertiary

A tertiary source is further removed from primary source. It leads the researcher to a secondary source, rather than to the primary source.

  • Indexes and Bibliography
  • Encyclopedias and Dictionaries
  • Library catalog
  • Most textbooks
  • Guidebooks