What is a primary source?
- Original materials or documents that
- ...have not yet been analyzed or interpreted
- ...other research is based on
- ...provide original, direct perspective
- ...provide original thinking, report a discovery, or share new information
- Firsthand information or original data on a topic. From the time period involved; written or made by someone who experienced or witnessed the event in question. Often in the first-person voice.
- Often unpublished works
- Original results of an experiment or study can also be found in scholarly articles or papers
- Letters, diaries, memoirs, manuscripts, speeches
- Art works (novels, creative writing, poems, drawings, paintings, songs, sheet music, murals, etc.)
- Interviews, oral histories
- Photographs, film footage, maps
- Historical, legal, and government documents; public records
- Eyewitness accounts
- Artifacts (advertisements, posters, pamphlets, clothing, buildings, etc.)
- Original data, original research & case studies or results of an experiment (i.e. statistical data)
- Email, blogs, tweets
What is a secondary source?
- Based on primary sources! Interprets, describes, summarizes, analyzes, evaluates, or draws conclusions about the primary source
- Secondhand information. Not an original source! Created from the primary source and after the fact. Often uses the third-person voice. No direct physical connection to the person or event being studied. Often produced after some time has passed.
- Can be newspaper or popular magazine articles, book or movie reviews, or scholarly journal articles that evaluate or criticize someone else's original research
- Usually published works (e.g. journal articles, books, documentaries)
- Reviews, critical analyses, second-person accounts, and biographical or historical studies
- Prints of paintings, replicas of art objects, reviews of research, academic articles
- Peer-reviewed analytical articles
- Analytical essays and critiques
- Book reviews, music reviews, art reviews
- News accounts
This guide was created to help LMU students distinguish between and evaluate primary and secondary source materials. If you need assistance in evaluating, finding, or citing primary and secondary sources, please contact a reference librarian!
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Primary vs. Secondary Sources Video
A brief tutorial on distinguishing between primary and secondary sources, including examples of both.
YouTube video courtesy of the Hartness Library System.