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History: Primary and Secondary Sources

What is a Primary Source?

When you want to learn about the past, it is always beneficial as a historian and researcher to utilize resources that are first-hand accounts of the events, culture, and overall condition of the time period you are researching. Usually, these are photographs, letters, autobiographies, films and media, and so much more. A primary source can usually serve as an original source of information on the topic and can give insight into many aspects of that time period's culture--depending on how close the source is to the time period being researched. 

Types of Primary Sources

Primary sources can include but are not limited to:

  • Interviews
  • Autobiographies
  • Films made in that time period
  • Propaganda made in that time period
  • Photographs
  • Census/Government statistics
  • Maps
  • Speeches made in that time period
  • Diaries/Journals/Letters

Where Can I Find Primary Sources?

You can find primary sources:

What is a Secondary Source?

In contrast to a primary source, a secondary source is information that was created after the time period being researched. Secondary sources are often created by historians or other curators of history who use primary sources as a basis for their own research. While it is helpful to be close to the time period for primary sources, in some cases it's best to use the most recent resource for secondary sources. 

Types of Secondary Sources

Secondary sources can include but are not limited to: 

  • Textbooks
  • Biographies
  • Documentaries
  • Journal articles
  • Books/Historical narratives

Where Can I Find Secondary Sources?

You can find secondary sources:

Need Help?

Librarians are on stand-by to help you with any questions you may have when it comes to primary and secondary sources! To Chat with a Librarian, click here