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Researching: Primary vs. Secondary

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Primary sources

Contemporary accounts of an event written by someone who experienced or witnessed the event.

Original documents (not about another document or account) including diaries, letters, memoirs, speeches, manuscripts, and interviews.

Newspaper or magazine articles written soon after the fact and not as historical accounts; also, photographs, audio or video recordings, research reports in the natural or social sciences, and original literary or theatrical works. 

Articles in scholarly peer-reviewed journals reporting research and methodology.




Secondary sources

Interpret, evaluate and draw conclusions about the events described or reported in primary sources.

Are written after the event and with the benefit of hindsight.

Are usually in the form of published works such as journal articles or books, but may include radio or television documentaries.



Primary Sources - Humanities

Primary Sources - Sciences

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