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Everett/Grove/Freeman - Primary & Secondary Sources: Home

Students learn to discern between primary and secondary sources

What is a Primary Source?

"Primary sources are the raw materials of history — original documents and objects which were created at the time under study." ("Using")*

What is a Secondary Source?

"Secondary sources interpret or critique primary sources. They often include an analysis of the event that was discussed or featured in the primary source." ("What is")*

Did you know...?

  • Primary sources aren't free from bias. Consider who wrote the source in question, the purpose behind its creation, when it was written, and who the intended audience was meant to be.
  • Secondary sources, like a textbook, can have primary sources within them. For instance, they can include photographs, letters, and political cartoons from the time period you're researching.

Analyzing Primary Sources

Works Cited in this Guide

“A Definition of Primary Source.” Primary Source Village, University of Illinois, 23 Aug. 2008,

Hale, John. “A Modest Enquiry Into the Nature of Witchcraft .” Salem Witch Trials: Documentary Archive and Transcription Project, The University of Virginia, 2000, images.01/source/1.html.

“Using Primary Sources.” Library of Congress,

“What Is a Secondary Source?” EasybibChegg,

Primary/Secondary Sources Presentation

Examples of Primary & Secondary Sources

Primary Source Examples Secondary Source Examples
Newspaper articles  Biographies
Diary entries, letters, speeches Books about specific topics
Articles, or personal effects/objects from a particular time period Textbooks
Court Documents, census records, financial records, vital records etc. Reference Sources
Oral interviews and first hand accounts Scholarly analysis
Creative works, such as films, artwork, poetry etc. Movie/play reviews
Photographs, Maps Art critiques

Explore Primary Sources in Different Mediums


American Leaders Speak:
Recordings from World War I


Theodore Roosevelt,
His Life and Times on FIlm


James Madison Papers,

The Library of Congress has extensive primary sources available in different mediums on a variety of topics.

Primary Source

John Hale, 1702

Primary or Secondary?

You are doing research on the Black Death in Europe and come across a legal document from 1348 instructing people how to properly dispose of bodies infected by the plague. Would this document be considered a primary or secondary source?

Primary: 347 votes (71.99%)
Secondary: 135 votes (28.01%)
Total Votes: 482

Primary or Secondary?

Your teacher asked you to open your textbooks and read the introduction of Chapter 14, The Fall of Rome. Is this reading a primary or secondary source?

Primary: 39 votes (9.97%)
Secondary: 352 votes (90.03%)
Total Votes: 391

Primary or Secondary?

You volunteer at an elderly home once a week. A resident shows you some of the letters she received from a loved one fighting over seas in Germany during WWII. Would these letters be considered a primary or secondary source?

Primary: 406 votes (80.08%)
Secondary: 101 votes (19.92%)
Total Votes: 507