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Primary v. Secondary Sources

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The last day of schoolJune 8th, 2013
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One of the more confusing distinctions for history students at every level is that between “primary” and “secondary” sources. For your research paper you must include at least one primary source in your references. Primary sources are original, first-hand accounts of an event or time period. They are usually written or made during or close to the event or time period. They can be anything from newspapers or government documents to original, creative writing or works of art. Most importantly, these sources are factual and not interpretive because they come directly from the source. Secondary sources, on the other hand, analyze and interpret primary sources. They are second-hand accounts of an historical event or time period. Most of the historical materials you have seen at this point in your academic career are secondary sources. Below is a table that shows some of the most common primary and secondary sources to help guide your research.

Examples of Primary Sources Examples of secondary Sources
  • Diaries, journals, and letters
  • Newspaper and magazine articles (factual accounts)
  • Government records (census, marriage, military)
  • Photographs, maps, postcards, posters
  • Recorded or transcribed speeches
  • Interviews with participants or witnesses (e.g., The Civil Right Movement)
  • Interviews with people who lived during a particular time (e.g., genocide in the Americas)
  • Songs, Plays, novels, stories
  • Paintings, drawings, and sculptures
  • Biographies – Books
  • Histories – Books
  • Literary Criticism
  • Book, Art, and Theater Reviews
  • Newspaper articles that interpret
  • Textbooks
  • Reference Books (encyclopedias)

What is the difference between a primary and secondary source?

(10) sentences

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45 Comments

  1. Dy'mond L. Holder says:

    thats so cool! imma start doing homework online everynight!

  2. Sha'kiyah N. Rooks says:

    thats AWESOME Mr. Mogg !!!!!

  3. yOBANI MARIN says:

    The diffenets between primmary and secondary sources is. Primmary sources is when the the person thats telling to story really there telling it. Secondary sources is when the . Anouther person was there telling what the main person did. You can look for key words in primary and secondary sources. For example ( Award winnning book about Irish immigration writting by famous).

  4. Ulyssia says:

    Dear Mommy And Daddy,

    A primary source is when you get your information from the person who actually seen the situation. A secondary source is where you here it from someone else.

    • Ulyssia says:

      I would trust a primary source because they actually saw what happen. The secondary source just heard it from somebody else so they dont actually know what really happen. For example Wikipedia is not a primary sorce beacuase they werent actually there for the situation. If you interview someone they are a primary source beacause they were there. Photo’s are a primary source because they capture the moment. A painting is a secondary source because they are just drawing what they see and its not the real thing. A diary is a primary source because people are writing what they did and they were actually there. So the diffrence between primary and secondary sources is a primary source was actually there at the situation and secondary just heard about it from someone else.

  5. Jaquan Brown says:

    Dear,Momma we are dicsussing primary and secondary sources.when you are using primary sources you have to have proof of your answer.Witch is the person that was there.Also there has to be a reason for your source.Also your secondary source is when you find something after the fact.

    • jaquan brown says:

      Also a secondary source is somrthing you hear or see.Then a primary source has to contain an fact that was took in during that time.This facts have to be taken place at a time.The sources cant be copyrited.It is ilegall to.

  6. Jaden Garner says:

    Dear Mom,
    We are susposed to write a letter about primary and secondary sources.The meaning of primary is first.The meaning of secondary is second.They are very important.Sources are important also.sources are information.

    • jaden garner says:

      primary sourses are the best sources.when they come together.now we are going to talk about secondary sources.because we have already covered primary sources.secondary sources are not so good.but they are stil in use.they put the goodones and the bad ones together.and make even better one.thats primary and secondary sources.

  7. Drew Kinnin says:

    Mister Mogg I want you to have a computer game day where you can go on any site. Also can you give us less homework please? Have a good week! :} Drew Kinnin

  8. keshawn haskins says:

    dear mom the difference between primary and secondary sources are that . Primary sources are from preople who herd it first hand. Seconday sources are when people heard it from others. Some examples for primary is when you told someoneabout your day. Some example of secondary sources are when you hear someone say something about what a person said. You can also tell deffrences by look at keywords. Keywords can be any words tht tell you something.You can tell another way by loooking at dates.You can look if theres words like they her .you can notice if there are other keywords also.

  9. Brittany Green says:

    Dear mom, today we were talking about the differences between primary and secondary sources. Our homework was to write a letter about them. So thats what im going to do.A
    primary source is a source that came from person that was there. For example a diary or a
    journal.It can be a interveiw with a preson that was there.A secondary source is a source that
    has one step taken from a primary source. Or you can say that it is something that came from a primary source. For example a textbook or wikipedia.These are the two types of sources.
    Hope you enjoyed:)!!!!!

  10. Aaliyah Mason says:

    Dear mom and dad,I just wanted to let you know that we are studying primary and secondary sources.Primary sources are articles that are written by that person that was there during that event.Ex.when I was outside I saw by brother riding his bike.So this is1st person point of veiw.Secondary sources are articles that are written by a person that wasn’t there during the event.Ex.Aaliyah saw her brother riding his bike outside.So this is 2nd,3rd,etc person point of veiw.Anyway back to primary sources,primary sources mean that you could enter view someone to get the facts.Now back to secondary sources,secondary sources mean that you could write a story an make smart inferences.Thats what primary and secondary sources are about.

    • Zadaiah Roye (2018) says:

      This is very good. Just make sure that when you are writing an opening for a letter you need to separate this from the rest of your letter.

  11. geomarcus says:

    Dear Mom,

    A primary source is an ORIGANAL set of info writen in that time period.Its like a dairy,journal,or a newspaper.It can also be an autobiograph.

    • Oops! Dear Mom and Dad,

      I forgot to mention a few things so let me start over. A primary source is an ORIGINAL set of information written in that time period. It is sometimes a daily journal or perhaps even a newspaper article. The best types of primary sources are manuscripts or autobiographies in my own opinion. This is very different than a secondary source.

      A secondary source is a source which is either a copy, a quotation of, or reference to the primary source. Some examples include our understanding of Plato’s writings. The nearest source we have is over a thousand years old from the date that Plato either said or wrote the information. This means we could be looking at a very different manuscript than if we had Plato’s original work. Meanwhile, we have some of the manuscripts from some of the authors of the Bible as close as 25 years after they were written. Therefor, these should be close to the original works but are still not primary sources.

      I hope this has helped you to understand why there is a difference between sources of information.

  12. Lacey says:

    Dear mom ,
    The difference between a primary and secondary source is simple. The difference is that the primary source is like you were there. Like you saw it all. A primary source is pretty much like you were a witness of what happened. For instance Ulyssia wasn’t at school but she told someone that we didn’t have homework but Adira was at school and she told the same person that the did have homework so Adira is the primary source. A secondary source is when someone heard something from another person. Like a textbook. The writers of the textbook was not actually there. For instance journal is a primary source. A person who heard something is a secondary source.

  13. Zaria C. Flythe says:

    Dear Mom and Dad ,

    A primary source is an event that someone experienced or witnessed in person. Some examples are diaries, letters, memoirs, speeches, journals, manuscripts, and interviews.They may also include pictures, video recordings or even research reports. Therefore Wikipedia is not a primary source. Secondary sources are from a person who was not there but is getting their information from someone else. These sources are usually from a second or third person’s point of view. Some examples of secondary sources are books, Wikipedia, journal articles, newspaper articles. They may include radio or television documentaries, or conferences proceedings. Basically primary and secondary sources are very different from each other. That is how primary and secondary sources are different.

  14. Makiyah Phillips says:

    Dear, mom and dad

    The difference betwen Primary and Secondary Souces are that Primary Souces are souces that are true. They have been seen and heard. The letter,diary or others that tells the primary souce is telling the truth. Cause the

    • Makiyah Phillips says:

      primary means the first. And how you know it is true cause that person will tell the whole story and they will be a witness.Secondary Souces are souces that are not true. They are not witnessed. They are told after the event happens. So what they might tell you might not be true at all they probly just make up some of it so it could seem real. And so these two souces are a lot different.

  15. alyshiawilliams says:

    A primary source is event written by someone who experienced or witnessed the event in question. In my own words a primary source is a person who made it up or thought of it first. examples of a primary source is diaries,letters,memoirs,journals, speeches,manuscripts,interviews and other such unpublished works. they are not about another document or account.A secondary source explain primary sources, and so can be described as at least one step removed from the event under review. secondary source materials, then ,interpret,assign value to, decode. Also drawing conclusions about the events reported in primary sources.These are usually in the form of published works such as journal articles, newspaper articles ,or books. But may include radio or television documentaries.This is the difference between a primary and secondary sources.

  16. Sha'Kiyah Nicole Rooks says:

    The difference between Primary and Secondary sources is that Primary means one or original. A primary source rae current accounts of an event, written y someone who experienced or witnessed the event in question. These original documents are often diaries, letters, memoirs, journals, speeches, manuscripts, interviews and other such unpublished works. They may also include photographs, audio or video recordings, research reportsin the nature or social science, or literary or theatrical works

    • Sha'Kiyah Nicole Rooks says:

      Secondary sources explain primary sources and so can be described as at least one step removed from the event under review. Secondary sources material, then, interpret, assign value to, decode, and draw conclusions about the events reported in primary sources. These are usually in the form of published works such as journal articles, newspaper articles, or books, but may include radio or television documetaries, or conference proceedings. Secondary means seconf or next. This is all I know about Primary and Secondary Sources !! Hope You Enjoyed !!! : )

  17. Vondra Patrick says:

    Dear Mom,
    The difference between primary and secondary sources is that a primary source is something that you were there to witness it and you actually saw it with your eyes. A secondary source is where you did not see it in person and you can not witness it and it’s something that you made up. A few examples of a primary source are a speech. A example of a secondary source is a Wikipedia.

  18. Emmy ruth says:

    Dear Dad,

    Today in history class we learned about Primary and Secondary sources. We learned about where to find these. ( diaries, articles.. etc: ). We also learned there definitions. Primary sources are current accounts of an event, written by someone who experienced or witnessed the event. A secondary source explains a primary source, and so can be described as at least one step removed from the event under review. So that pretty much ties it together. But ask yourself , what would you choose? Exactly primary , why, because some secondary sources are exactly always true.This does not mean that you always absolutely have to choose primary source. Most of the movies that you watch like : Gods and Generals, are not exactly false or at least have some fact in them. So the next time you want a history movie think! What do you want Primary or Secondary ? Love you.

    Love,
    emalim ( Emmy )

  19. Naja Boone says:

    Dear Mom and Dad,

    I’m going to tell you about the differences between primary and secondary sources.
    A primary source is a source that was written by someone who witnessed an event first hand.Some examples are diaries,journals,letters,speeches,and interviews.Primary sources are also original.I would go with the primary source because since the person who wrote it saw it first hand it has to be true.Primary sources are more detailed than secondary sources.
    A secondary source is a source that explains a primary source.Some examples are a reinactment of something and a biography.In a secondary source,it tells about an event.It also tells what they know or heard about an event.That’s what makes secondary sources a little hard to believe to the fullest.
    The main difference between the two is that a primary source is more true.A primary source is the real thing.A secondary source is just an explanation of a primary source.So those are the differences!:)

  20. Emmy ruth says:

    on my letter it says[ are exactly always true ] that are is supposed to be arent

  21. Nadia R. Pendergrass says:

    Dear Mom,
    We’re learning about primary and secondary sources. A primary source is something like you’re witnessing first hand, or it can be in diaries. A secondary source is something like you’re second to find out. It can be found in Wikipedia and newspaper articles. An example of primary sources is interviews, letters and journals. An example of secondary sources is books, friends (family/people). Some secondary sources are not always true. Most of the primary sources are normally true. This is all I know about primary and secondary sources.
    Hope You Enjoy!!!:)

  22. Naja Boone says:

    Dear Mom and Dad,

    I’m going to tell you about the differences between primary and secondary sources.
    A primary source is a source that was written by someone who witnessed an event first hand.Some examples are diaries,journals,letters,speeches,and interviews.Primary sources are also original.I would go with the primary source because since the person who wrote it saw it first hand it has to be true.Primary sources are more detailed than secondary sources.
    A secondary source is a source that explains a primary source.Some examples are a reinactment of something and a biography.In a secondary source,it tells about an event.It also tells what they know or heard about an event.That’s what makes secondary sources a little hard to believe to the fullest.
    The main difference between the two is that a primary source is more true.A primary source is the real thing.A secondary source is just an explanation of a primary source.So those are the differences!:)

  23. Naja Boone says:

    this is really good.it saves me a lot of time instead of making my hands hurt.:D

  24. Dear Ma,
    The difference between primary and secondary sources there are so many differences. A primary source is what you see or what you experience.A secondary is what someone tells you or what you hear. Primary examples are like diaries,and pictures.Secondary examples are like Newspaper article,and Informational internet sites.So therefore if you see something with your own eyes remember that’s Primary. With secondary remember that is what you heard or what someone else thought from their point of view. So if you are studying the Civil War remember that the person teaching you is Secondary. If you are actually at a situation or you experience you are Primary. This what I know about the differences.HOPE YOU LOVE IT! From:Tatyanna

  25. Dear Mom,

    I will explain to you the primary sources vs secondary sources. First i will explain to you the secondary sources. A secondary source is something that your hear. Like i may say Toni told me we won first in our youth division. Wich we did lol!!!!! But now i will explain primary sources. That is something you hear yourself. I could say, we won first place in youth2. i could also tell you an event i just saw. if it was a secondary event you may not know if it is true. I would rather see it for myself than hear it. i hope this helps you.

  26. this is a cooooooooooool site mr. moggggggg

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