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History : Primary & Secondary Sources

This guide is intended for all those studying history and related disciplines.

Overview of Primary & Secondary Sources

Primary and secondary sources are necessary for adding insight into your research and supporting your claims. Primary and secondary sources can look different depending on the discipline. This guide covers source types in the humanities. If you would like to know more about primary and secondary sources in the sciences or another discipline, ask a librarian!

Primary sources are original documents or objects that originate from the time period being studied or at the time of a historical event. They provide significant context and value to your research through direct or first-hand experiences. Examples include speeches, diaries, letters, and photos.

Secondary sources are written after a historical event and describe, analyze, discuss, evaluate, and interpret primary sources. Examples include newspaper articles, articles in scholarly journals, books, and websites.

► One of the most important criteria for whether a source is primary or secondary is determined by how you intend to use it. Depending on the context of a source it may be both primary or secondary. Watch the video below to learn more about primary and secondary sources. 

Still not sure? When in doubt, ask your instructor. It is not always clear and your instructor's interpretation for your assignment is the best source of information. 

Finding Primary & Secondary Sources

You can find primary sources in a variety of places, including on the open web and through the Library. Visit the following pages for more information on where to find primary and secondary sources.