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ESL 912: Types of Sources

What is a Primary Source?

Primary sources provide a first-hand testimony or direct evidence on a subject. They are created by someone who experienced the period or event first-hand. Because they are eye-witness accounts, many primary sources are created at the time of the event occurred.

Examples of primary sources include: 

  • Letters, diaries
  • Newspaper accounts
  • Personal accounts, autobiographies, memoirs​
  • Speeches
  • Audio/Visual (songs, oral history interviews, films)
  • Images, museum artifacts, photographs, paintings, sculpture, posters​
  • Data from scientific experiments 
  • Government documents (reports, statistics, laws, etc.)




How do I Find a Primary Source?

Use special keywords when searching for primary sources, such as:

  • sources
  • documentary history
  •  personal narratives
  • autobiographies
  • memoirs
  • correspondence
  •  letters
  • diaries

Here's an example of how you can use the keywords to search for primary sources on your topic using the library's catalog:

What is a Secondary Source?

Secondary sources are interpretations and analysis based on primary sources.

For example, an autobiography is a primary source while a biography is a secondary source.

Examples of secondary sources include:

  • Scholarly Journal Articles
  • Magazines
  • Reports
  • Encyclopedias
  • Handbooks
  • Dictionaries
  • Documentaries
  • Newspapers

Note: A book is a format. You can find primary and secondary sources published in book form.