Sometimes professors may require students to find primary sources for their research papers in addition to secondary sources. This guide explains the difference between primary and secondary sources and shows readers how to search for and locate primary and secondary sources.
What is a Primary Source?
A primary source is an original document or object, something that was created or written during the time that is being researched. It is first-hand information from someone who was present at the scene of action or witnessed an event when it occurred. It gives us an up, close and personal view of a particular event or time.
What is a Secondary Source?
A secondary source interprets and analyzes a primary source. These sources are one or two steps removed from the event or occurrence. They may include comments, discussions, reviews and explanations; they are considered second-hand sources because they are based on the primary source. A secondary source may contain quotes, graphics or pictures of primary sources in them.
Examples of primary and secondary sources in the various disciplines were compiled by Lisa Bier.