Skip to main content

Honors 201 - Spring 2014: Primary Sources


What is a Primary Source?

A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. They reflect the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer.  Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during an historical event or time period.

What is a Secondary Source?

secondary source is a work that interprets or analyzes an historical event or phenomenon.  It is generally at least one step removed from the event is often based on primary sources.  Examples include:  scholarly or popular books and articles, reference books, and textbooks.

Adapted from Princeton University Library and Cal Berkeley Library Guide

Primary Sources - How to Design Deliberate Thinking into the Rsearch Process


Types of Primary Sources

Depending on your topic, some possible types of sources might include:

Books Photographs and images
Magazine and newspaper articles Cartoons and advertisements
Diaries and journals Movies, videos, DVDs
Memoirs and autobiographies Audio recordings
Interviews Public opinion polls
Letters Fiction
Speeches Research data and statistics
Documents produced by organizations Documents produced by government agencies, including congressional hearings and census records

Primary and Secondary Resources Video