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Foreign Languages: Find Primary Sources

Identifying Primary Sources

You may need to use primary sources for foreign languages research to discover the history of a country.

On this page, you will find:

  • A video teaching you about primary and secondary sources (left column)
  • Definitions and examples of primary and secondary sources (right column)


Manuscripts and Rare Books

Visit ECU's Manuscripts & Rare Books Department to find primary sources, maps, and more!

Primary vs. Secondary sources

A primary source is an original, first-hand account of an event or time period. It is usually written or created during or close to the time period under study. Primary sources are:

  • Original, creative writing or works of art
  • Factual, not interpretive

A secondary source is written sometime after the event occurred. This could be days later or centuries later. Secondary sources are:

  • Provide analysis, interpretation, explanation, description and/or evaluation
  • Are often based on primary sources.


Primary Sources:

  • diaries, letters and emails
  • speeches, testimony and interviews
  • some newspaper articles
  • news film or video
  • autobiographies
  • statistics and raw data sets
  • original scientific research
  • legislative hearings and bills
  • pictures and maps
  • poetry, drama, novels, music and art
  • artifacts such as jewelry, tombstones, furniture and clothing

Secondary Sources:

  • textbooks
  • encyclopedias
  • literature reviews
  • many magazine articles
  • journal articles which are not primary reports of new research
  • literary criticism of Hamlet
  • reviews of books, movies, plays, etc.
  • a book written in 1995 about the causes of the French Revolution