Friday, January 19th, 2018

Primary vs. Secondary Sources


Primary sources reflect the viewpoint of a participant or observer of an event or phenomenon. They are records of events as they are initially described without interpretation or commentary. They can be disorganized and offer an opportunity to draw conclusions independently. Primary sources can also be sets of data which have been tabulated but not interpreted.  Some examples of primary sources are:

  • diaries
  • journals
  • speeches
  • interviews
  • letters
  • memos
  • manuscripts
  • memoirs
  • autobiographies
  • artifacts
  • records of organizations
  • research data
  • government records
  • contemporaneous materials
  • any medium documenting an event

Secondary sources provide analysis and interpretation of an historical event or phenomenon. These sources are removed from the original event and often make information more accessible by repackaging it in a more accessible or understandable form. Secondary sources are the subsequent interpretations or studies that are based on primary sources. Secondary sources include:

  • dictionaries
  • encyclopedias
  • textbooks
  • reference materials
  • any item that interprets or reviews research (a primary) work