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Information Evaluation: Primary v Secondary

Before choosing a source for your research paper, it must be evaluated. Here are some tools to help you understand different types of sources and how to evaluate them.

Primary & Secondary Sources

"The raw materials of history — original documents and objects which were created at the time under study." 

Primary Sources are created during the time of study

Examples: 

  • Newspaper or magazine articles
  • Books, pamphlets, government documents
  • Diaries, letters, manuscripts, speeches, interviews, relics, artifacts
  • Maps, archival materials, creative works
  • Art, visual materials, music, sound recordings, videos

 

Source:  Using Primary Sources by Library of Congress.. / Image Source: Primary Source Graphic by adstarkel. Used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

"Accounts or interpretations of events created by someone without firsthand experience." 

Secondary sources are created after the fact

Examples:

  • Publications (not 1st person perspective)
  • Journal articles
  • Books, textbooks
  • Histories, criticisms, commentaries
  • Reference materials, encyclopedias

Source:  Using Primary Sources by Library of Congress.. / Image Source: Secondary Source Graphic by adstarkel. Used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

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Additional Resources

Learn more: Primary & Secondary Sources

Learn More: Where to Find Primary Sources

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