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Suggested teaching materials for faculty or student use.

Understanding Primary & Secondary Sources (video)

Explains differences between primary and secondary sources. Gives examples, and why you might use them.


Created by Imagine Easy Solutions (creators of EasyBib).

Primary, Secondary & Tertiary Sources

What Are Primary Sources?

A primary source is a reliable first-hand account of a topic or event usually created at or near the time the event occurred or the topic was relevant.  There are many different types of primary sources, including:

  • Speeches, diaries, letters, and interviews;
  • Event programs, posters, and television advertisements;
  • Survey data, such as census or economic statistics; and
  • Photographs, videos, or audio recordings capturing events.

What Are Secondary Sources?

On the other hand, a secondary source is an account created later by someone who did not personally experience the topic or event being discussed.  In most cases, secondary resources are created by researching primary sources and then using that evidence to analyze and summarize the topic or event.  Examples of secondary sources are:

  • Scholarly books and articles;
  • Genealogies;
  • Data analyses; and
  • Documentaries.

book coverWhat are Tertiary Sources?

A tertiary source summarizes and collects primary sources and secondary sources.

Examples of tertiary sources include:

  • Encyclopedias
  • Handbooks
  • Companions
  • Indexes 
  • Online encyclopedias or indexes also count as tertiary sources.



Using Primary Sources (website)

Archives & Primary Sources Guide