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Library Orientation: Primary vs. Secondary Sources

An easy access point to the LRD library resources.

Primary Sources Defined

Primary sources are original creations of a person or persons or a first-hand account of an event. Examples of primary sources include:

  • Original Documents:
    • Letters, diaries, contracts, interviews, emails, newpaper articles the give a first-hand account of an event, etc.
  • Creative Works:
    • Movies, songs, novels, paintings, poems, etc.
  • Relics or Artifacts:
    • Buildings, objects, such as pottery or tools created by earlier civilizations, etc.
  • Data:
    • Census numbers, data collected during a research project, statistics, historial data, etc.

Secondary Sources Defined

Secondary sources interpret or analyze primary sources or information. They are usually in written form, but other things, like documentaries, are also considered secondary sources. Examples of secondary sources include:

  • Journal or research articles
  • Textbooks
  • Magazine articles
  • Nonfiction books

What Are Primary and Secondary Sources?

Video: Primary vs. Seconday Sources & The Civil Rights Movement

Example

This is a famous photography by Dorothea Lange of FlorenceThompson, an itinerant farm worker and mother. This photo was taken during the Great Depression; Dorothea Lange was one of many photographers hired by the Federal Government to document the effect of the Depression on the people of the United States. Because this photo is an original creation it is a primary source:

To see more photographs of the Great Depression, visit the FSA/OWI collection.

This is a book written about the photographs of Dorothea Lange. This is a secondary source:

Subject Guide