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English1C Kaye: Primary or Secondary

Primary Sources

Primary sources may include letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, speeches, interviews, memoirs, documents produced by government agencies such as Congress or the Office of the President, photographs, audio recordings, moving pictures or video recordings, research data, and objects or artifacts such as works of art, buildings, tools, and weapons."*

*American Library Association. Instruction & Research Services Committee of the Reference and User Service Association History Section. http://www.ala.org/rusa/sections/history/resources/pubs/usingprimarysources

Think of primary sources as original materials and observations. They are information sources that are close to an event, individual, or time period. Examples include:

  •  Diaries
  •  Letters
  •  Works of literature
  •  Original documents like a patent or an invention
  •  Birth certificate
  •  Scientific journal reporting original research
  •  Interview
  •  Speech
  •  Painting
  •  Treaty
  •  Raw data
  •  Film
  •  Novel
  • Autobiography
  • Blogs
  • Email
  • Discussion threads
  • Minutes to a meeting
  • Survey photographs

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources review, comment, edit, interpret, analyze or summarize primary sources. The information has been created after an event and comment on the event or the original work itself. Be sure to examine secondary sources to insure that the information is reliable and credible.