Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
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
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.
diaries, letters and emails
speeches, testimony and interviews
some newspaper articles
news film or video
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
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