What is a Primary Source?
A primary source is a document, speech, or other sort of evidence written, created or otherwise produced during the time under study. Primary sources offer an inside view of a particular event. Use the tabs above to find help locating different types of primary sources.
General Examples of Primary Sources
- Original documents: autobiographies, diaries, e-mail, interviews, letters, minutes, news film footage, official records, photographs, raw research data, speeches, personal narratives, sources, memoirs, letters, dispatches, interviews, pamphlets, diaries, speeches, translations
- Creative works: art, drama, films, music, novels, poetry
- Relics or artifacts: buildings, clothing, DNA, furniture, jewelry, pottery
What is a secondary source?
Secondary sources are less easily defined than primary sources. Generally, they are accounts written after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. They are interpretations and evaluations of primary sources. Secondary sources are not evidence, but rather commentary on and discussion of evidence.
Examples of Secondary Sources
- Biographical works
- Commentaries, criticisms
- Dictionaries, Encyclopedias
- Journal articles (depending on the disciple can be primary)
- Magazine and newspaper articles (this distinction varies by discipline)
- Monographs, other than fiction and autobiograph
- Textbooks (also considered tertiary)
- Web site (also considered primary).
Primary Research refers to the process of going out and collecting data yourself.
You may collect data using:
Parts of this guide will help you with this process.