Primary sources are the “materials on a topic upon which subsequent interpretations or studies are based, anything from firsthand documents such as poems, diaries, court records, and interviews to research results generated by experiments, surveys, ethnographies, and so on.”
Primary sources are records of events as they are first described, without any interpretation or commentary. They are also sets of data, such as census statistics, which have been tabulated, but not interpreted. As to the format, primary source materials can be written and non-written, the latter including sound, picture and artifact.
Secondary sources, on the other hand, offer an analysis or a restatement of primary sources. They often attempt to describe or explain primary sources. Some secondary sources not only analyze primary sources, but use them to argue a contention or to persuade the reader to hold a certain opinion.
Examples of secondary sources include: dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks and books and article that interpret or review research works.
|Discipline||Primary Source||Secondary Source|
|Art||Original artwork||Article critiquing the piece of art|
|History||Slave diary||Book about the Underground Railroad|
|Literature||Poem||Essay on a particular genre of poetry|
|Political Science||Treaty||Essay on Native American land rights|
|Theater||Play, performance||Biography of a playwright|
(*Adapted from Bowling Green State University Library)