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Primary Source vs. Secondary Source


What is a primary source?

Primary sources are original materials that present initial thinking, report on discoveries, or share new information. Usually, these sources are:

  • Firsthand documents presented during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event, for example:
      • Legal documents, such as U. S. Code, or court records
      • Historical records, such as the Declaration of Independence
      • Interviews
      • Diaries, autobiographies, personal journals
      • News reports
  • Research results generated by experiments, investigations, surveys, studies, etc., for example:
      • Books or scholarly journal articles reporting original research results
      • Books or papers about a specific theory
      • Census data
      • Statistics
  • The original works of literature, art, and music, for example:
      • Poems
      • Novels
      • Films, music recordings
      • Paintings, sculptures, photographs

What is a secondary source?

Secondary sources are materials written about primary sources. These sources can be:

  • Interpretations of or discussions about firsthand documents, for example:
      • Law reviews
      • Books or articles in newspapers, magazines or journals about historical documents, news, etc.
      • Biographies
  • Evaluations or analysis of someone's original research results, for example:
      • Books or papers in scholarly journals about original research reports
      • Books and papers about a specific theory or thought.
      • Encyclopedias
      • Handbooks
  • Commentary or criticism of original literature and art works, for example:
      • Literary criticism
      • Art criticism
      • Book reviews
      • Movie reviews

    For more information see the forllowing:


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