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Primary and Secondary Sources: Home


Primary and Secondary Sources Comparison


Primary Sources

Primary Sources

Primary sources are authorative, original, first-hand accounts of an event, discovery or new information. They are usually created at the time of the event or the first appearance of an original idea or research.

Examples of primary resources include:

  • diaries, correspondence, ships' logs
  • interviews
  • original documents e.g. birth certificates, trial transcripts
  • sacred texts
  • writings from key religious figures, eg the Pope
  • autobiographies, manuscripts
  • interviews, speeches, oral histories
  • case law, legislation, regulations, constitutions
  • government documents, statistical data, research reports
  • a journal article reporting NEW research or findings
  • creative art works, literature
  • newspaper advertisements and reportage and editorial/opinion pieces

Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources describe, discuss, interpret, comment upon, analyze, evaluate or summarise primary sources. They may be a commentary or evaluation of other sources to persuade the reader, or they may be a description of explanation of other sources.

Examples of secondary sources include:

  • journal articles that comment on or analyse research
  • textbooks
  • dictionaries and encyclopaedias
  • books that interpret, analyse
  • political commentary
  • biographies
  • dissertations
  • newspaper editorial/opinion pieces
  • criticism of literature, art works or music