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CMP 100 - Dr. Morris: Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary Sources

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

Here is a short YouTube video that defines and gives examples of Primary and Secondary Sources:

Finding Primary Sources

Search by keyword for Primary Sources in the Library Catalog 
You can search the Library Catalog to find direct references to primary source material. Go to the ADVANCED SEARCH, select the GUIDED SEARCH tab and do a keyword search for your topic and add one of the words below: 
(these are several examples of words that would identify a source as primary)

  • sources
  • correspondence
  • diaries
  • interviews
  • manuscript
  • personal narratives
  • speeches
  • letters
  • documents

Secondary Sources

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