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U.S. History Research Guide

What are Primary Sources?

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Learn the difference between primary and secondary sources in this short video (3:17 min).

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Examples of Primary Sources:

  • Letters, diaries, autobiographies, oral history, manuscripts
  • Speeches, personal narratives, interviews
  • Newspaper articles written at the time of the event; photographs
  • Government documents, hearings, reports, statistical data, trial transcripts
  • Original research (research studies published in academic journals)
  • Works of art, literature, music
  • Artifacts, tools, clothing, furniture, coins

Secondary sources interpret or analyze historical events. They are generally at least one step removed from the event. Examples:

  • Scholarly or popular books
  • Reference books
  • Textbooks
  • Journal articles