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Prof. Margolis - English 101 - Legacy Paper - Spring 2016: Primary vs Secondary

Primary Sources

A primary source is a document or record containing firsthand information or original data on a topic. Primary sources are usually created by individuals who experienced the event and recorded or wrote about it.

Common examples of primary sources include:

  • Original research studies have a hypothesis, methods, results and a discussion/conclusion
  • Letters
  • Diaries
  • Memoirs
  • Speeches
  • Photographs
  • Oral Histories
  • Pamphlets
  • Newspapers written at the time of the event
  • Manuscripts
  • Official recordings of a business, including financial ledgers and labor files
  • Maps
  • Court Cases
  • Artifacts
  • Patents
  • Play or Short story
  • Audio or Video recordings
  • Census Figures
  • Opinion Polls

Secondary Sources

A secondary source is one that was created later by someone that did not experience firsthand or participate in the events in which the author is writing about. Secondary sources often summarize, interpret, analyze or comment on information found in primary sources.

Common examples of secondary sources include:

  • Books
  • Biographies
  • Essays
  • Literary Criticism
  • Encyclopedias
  • Journal articles that do not present new research

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