Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary Sources

Primary sources are original materials that have not been evaluated or interpreted.
Primary sources become the supporting evidence for your own arguments and interpretations on a topic allowing you to add to the scholarship in your area of interest. They are evidence created during the time period that is being studied such as newspaper accounts from WWII, raw data like census statistics, oral histories from participants/observers of a particular time period or event, or articles/reports that present research methodology and detailed findings from original research studies.

Primary sources include:

  • Personal documents such as diaries, letters, and manuscripts
  • Speeches
  • Interviews
  • Photographs
  • Paintings
  • Sculptures
  • Artifacts such as clothes, household objects, and buildings
  • Films, sound, and video recordings
  • Autobiographies and memoirs
  • Government documents and records
  • Published books, journal articles, reports, and newspaper articles written at the time
  • Works of literature such as novels, poems, and short stories
  • Statistics
  • Original research
  • Tests and scales

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources compile information about a particular event or time period by interpreting and evaluating primary sources. They also present summarized accounts of previous research. They are used to help substantiate your position.

Secondary sources include:

  • Books
  • Dissertations
  • Biographies
  • Indexes, abstracts, bibliographies
  • Journal articles
  • Commentaries
  • Literature reviews