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Research and Information Literacy

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Differentiating between primary and secondary sources.

Primary & Secondary Sources

Primary sources are the raw materials of history, the first-hand testimony or direct evidence - original documents and objects - left behind and created by participants, witnesses, or recorders who were present at and experienced the events or conditions being documented at the time of the topic under study.

Examples of primary sources:

  • Autobiographies/Memoirs
  • Diaries
  • Oral Histories
  • Letters/Correspondence
  • First-hand newspaper and magazine accounts
  • Legal cases, treaties
  • Original works of literature, art, or music
  • Photographs and films
  • Postcards, posters
  • Records of organizations or governments

Secondary sources are materials that digest, analyze, evaluate and interpret information contained within primary sources or other secondary sources.

Examples of secondary sources:

  • Biographies (not an autobiography)
  • Textbooks
  • Encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks
  • Articles, commentaries, research articles in all subject disciplines
  • Criticism of works of literature, art and music

Primary Source Literacy

Primary Sources Tutorials (ProQuest)

Books about Primary Sources