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Primary vs Secondary Sources: Get Started

This page defines and gives examples of primary and secondary sources. It explains how primary sources can be used for research and secondary sources are used in research. It also explains how a source can be both depending on the situation.


  • Original documents (excerpts or translations acceptable): Diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records 
  • Creative Works: Poetry, drama, novels, music, art 
  • Relics of Artifacts: Pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings

Examples of primary sources include:

  • Video or audio recordings like the news archives of the Associated Press Newswire Service
  • Diary of Anne Frank - Experiences of a Jewish family during WWII 
  • Declaration of Independence.  - U.S. History
  • A journal article reporting new research or findings such as those found in the SCOPUS database
  • Plato's Republic - Women in Ancient Greece
  • Legal Cases such as those found in Lexis-Nexis


A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may have pictures, quotes or graphics of primary sources in them.

  • Journal articles which interpret or review previous findings
  • Law reviews
  • Textbooks
  • Magazine articles
  • Histories
  • Criticisms
  • Commentaries

Examples of secondary sources include:

  • A journal/magazine article which interprets or reviews previous findings
  • A history textbook
  • A book about the effects of WWI 


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