Primary vs. Secondary Sources

When conducting research you may also be asked to identify whether an information resource is a Primary or Secondary Source of information. Typically, this might occur in History classes or courses which utilize various historical texts or subjects. Below is a brief overview of what constitutes a primary resource and a secondary resource.


Primary Sources

An Original work

(This source requires you to interpret the work)
  • Diaries
  • Interviews
  • Original Documents (e.g. birth certificate or an official college transcript)
  • Patents
  • Photographs
  • Proceedings
  • Surveys
  • Speeches


Secondary Sources

Reference to an original work

(This is a source where another person interprets the work for you)
  • Biographies
  • Commentaries
  • Dissertations
  • Indexes, Abstracts, Bibliographies (used to locate primary & secondary sources)
  • Journal Articles*
  • Monographs (books)*
*Tip": Dissertations, journal articles and books may be primary sources if the work is original.


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Which of these is a primary source?




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