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Understanding Primary & Secondary Sources

Examples of Primary & Secondary Sources

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Source: College of the Atlantic

What are Primary Sources?

Primary sources convey first-hand experience of the event or time period you’re studying.

Secondary sources convey the experiences of others, or “second-hand” information; they often synthesize a collection of primary sources.

There's also a third group called tertiary sources, which are like "third-hand" information; they usually synthesize a collection of secondary sources.

PRIMARY Sources:

  • First-hand accounts by people who experienced event.
  • A person's account of own feelings, actions, or experiences.
  • Object or document that comes directly from person, place, or event being researched.

SECONDARY Sources:

  • Second-hand accounts by people who did not experience event.
  • One person's account of someone else's feelings, actions, or experiences.
  • Object or document that originates much later than person, place, or event being researched.
  • Contains INTERPRETATIONS, analysis, synthesis.

Source: Sam Houston University

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