Primary & Secondary Sources: Definitions

Looking for primary and secondary sources? Learn what makes something primary or secondary, how to find primary sources, and how to identify a primary research article!

Primary Sources

Primary Sources...

  • Provide direct or firsthand evidence about an event, object, person or work of art
  • Are usually written or created during or close to the event or time period being studied
  • Have not been filtered through interpretation or evaluation 
  • Are original materials on which other research is based
  • Can be written or non-written (e.g. sound recordings, photographs, artifacts)
  • Present original thinking, report a discovery, or share new information

Note: Examples of  primary sources may vary depending on the discipline or context.

Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources...

  • Are second-hand accounts written after an event happened
  • Include comments on, interpretation of, or discussions about the original material
  • Are often based on primary sources

Note: Examples of secondary sources may vary depending on the discipline or context.