This is the "Primary vs. Secondary Sources" page of the "Primary Sources & History Research at the McClain Library" guide.
Alternate Page for Screenreader Users
Skip to Page Navigation
Skip to Page Content

Primary Sources & History Research at the McClain Library   Tags: american history, ancient history, history day, leung, modern history, primary sources, secondary sources, world history  

This LibGuide will lead users to primary and secondary historical sources.
Last Updated: Nov 3, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Primary vs. Secondary Sources Print Page

Primary vs. Seconday Sources

According to the library at Princeton University, a primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during a historical time period. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event. Some types of primary sources include diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news, film footage, autobiographies, official records, creative works (poetry, art, drama, music, and novels), and artificats and realia (clothing, pottery, furniture, etc.). 

Here are words that you may use as keywords in the library' s catalog to find primary sources:

  • diaries
  • early works
  • interviews
  • manuscripts
  • pamphlets
  • personal narratives
  • sources
  • speeches
  • letters
  • documents
  • broadcasts


A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may have pictures, quotes or graphics of primary sources in them. Examples of secondary sources include:

  • history textbook
  • academic journal article that interrprets or reviews previous findings
  • encyclopedia
  • almanac
  • a book about the effects of World War II

Loading  Loading...