Home » Research Overview » Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

For more information, see S.O.A.P.S.

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)



  1. jaymarquan says:

    I will like to learn who won the civil war and whats there name of the army

  2. Izarriah M.B says:

    Dear daddy,

    The differences between primary and secondary sources is that primary source is when you were a witness to the event that happened. And that you can tell some one of what you saw. Primary sources means first or original. The primary sources are usually from a first person point a view. Some examples are dairies and photos. Secondary sources are when you are second or next. It means that the person was not there. There getting information from someone else. These sources are from second or first point of view. Some examples are Google and Wikipedia.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: