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Primary and Secondary Sources: Primary vs. Secondary

Primary Sources

Primary sources are the original materials of history.  They often provide first hand hand testimony or direct evidence of your research topic.  

(CC BY SA 2.0)

They can include: 

  • Diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records 
  • Poetry, music, works of art
  • Pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings, tools

To search for primary sources in the catalog/databases, search for: 

anecdotes narratives
archives photography
autobiography portraits
case study sources
correspondence speeches
diary statistics
documentary pamphlets
interview letters
manuscript records
maps statues

For more information:

Popular Primary Sources from the Library of Congress

Documenting the American South

American History primary sources

National Archives

Smithsonian Institution

Perseus Digital Library

Vincent Voice Library

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources interpret and analyze the original event documented in a primary source. 

(CC BY SA 2.0) 

They can include:

  • books
  • textbooks
  • dictionaries
  • encyclopedias
  • journal articles
  • book reviews 
  • criticisms
  • commentaries

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