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PRIMARY VS.

SECONDARY
SOURCES

PRIMARY SOURCES
Defi ned as anything that is an artifact, document,
recording, or other source of information that was
created at the time of study
Often called original source material.
First-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a
topic.
Created by witnesses who experienced the events or
conditions being documented.
Characterized by their content
Doesnt have to be the actual 800 year-old document

PRINTED OR PUBLISHED TEXTS


Books are most likely a secondary source as they
normally compile the ideas of primary sources and
form a new idea.
But they can also be primary source material in certain
situations
For example: a historian could write a biography on
Abraham Lincoln in 1866 and that would be a secondary
account. But if you wanted to know the sentiments towards
Lincoln during the time, you might use a biography
published close to his death as a primary source.

Books listed below are common primary source


material

Published Diaries
Autobiographies
Published documents
Published memoires

PERIODICALS
Newspapers
Magazines
Scholarly journals
These are dependent on time
of publication
For example: A modern article on
slavery in a historic journal would
be a secondary source, but if an
article on slavery was written in
the 1880s, it could act as a
secondary source, but could also
be a valuable primary source as it
would reveal how scholars in the
1880s interpreted the issue of
slavery.

GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS
A governments documents are direct evidence of its
activities, functions, and policies.
Any government document is an invaluable primary source
Examples:

Hearings and debates


Financial expenditures
Census data
Offi cial text of laws
Constitution
Declaration of Independence

The United States government is the worlds largest


publisher of government documents.
To be considered a government document, it must be
published and paid for by the government, no third
party or for-profi t publishers.

MANUSCRIPTS AND ARCHIVAL


MATERIAL
These are unpublished primary
sources
Examples:
Business and personal
correspondence (letters)
Diaries and journals
Legal and fi nancial documents
Photographs
Maps
Oral histories
Video
Audio cassette

SECONDARY SOURCES
Secondary sources collect information from primary
sources and attempt to interpret them.
Secondary sources can be the following
Popular periodical literature
History textbooks
Periodicals
As discussed above

Reference books
Although these should never be cited in a paper, they are
excellent resources for fi nding additional sources.