Primary vs. Secondary Sources

  • Primary Sources

    Primary sources are documents from the time period involved, eyewitness accounts or contemporary descriptions of events.

    Examples of Primary Sources 

    • Autobiographies
    • Case Studies
    • Dissertations
    • Interviews
    • Literature
    • News Reports
    • Original documents (i.e. birth certificate or a trial transcript)
    • Proceedings of Meetings
    • Pictures (originals only)
    • Reports of original research

    Secondary Sources

    Secondary sources are accounts written after the fact with the benefits of hindsight. They are interpretations of the primary source. Secondary sources are not evidence, but rather commentary on and discussion of evidence.

    Examples of Secondary Sources

    • Biographies
    • Commentaries
    • Dictionaries
    • Encyclopedias
    • Handbooks
    • Review Articles