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Primary Sources  

Last Updated: Dec 31, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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What is a Primary Source?

A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. 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:

  • ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS (excerpts or translations acceptable): Diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records 
  • CREATIVE WORKS: Poetry, drama, novels, music, art 
  • RELICS OR ARTIFACTS: Pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings
  • Examples of primary sources include:
  • Diary of Anne Frank - Experiences of a Jewish family during WWII 
  • The Constitution of Canada - Canadian History 
  • A journal article reporting NEW research or findings 
  • Weavings and pottery - Native American history 
  • Plato's Republic - Women in Ancient Greece 

What is a secondary source?

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. Some types of seconday sources include:

  • PUBLICATIONS: Textbooks, magazine articles, histories, criticisms, commentaries, encyclopedias 
  • Examples of secondary sources include:
  • A journal/magazine article which interprets or reviews previous findings 
  • A history textbook 
  • A book about the effects of WWI

Always Available Primary Source ebooks

These primary soruces are ALWAYS AVAILABLE to download from Gale Virtual Reference LibraryClick the book cover view the record on Gale and download from there.

Crime and Punishment: Essential Primary Sources, 2006 American Decades Primary Sources, 2004 Terrorism: Essential Primary Sources, 2006
Medicine, Health, and Bioethics: Essential Primary Sources, 2006 Environmental Issues: Essential Primary Sources, 2006 Immigration and Multiculturalism: Essential Primary Sources, 2006
Daily Life through World History in Primary Documents, 2009 Human and Civil Rights: Essential Primary Sources, 2007

Primary Sources Databases

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