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Primary Sources vs. Secondary Sources

What is a Primary Source?

A Primary Source is an original source created at a specific time of interest, it is original research, opinion, or documentation.

What is a Secondary Source?

A Secondary Source is written about a primary source. It is interpretation, discussion, or opinion about an original source.

Examples of Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary Source

Secondary Source

Florence Thompson with two of her children as part of the "Migrant Mother" series by Dorothea Lange

Gordon, Linda. Dorothea Lange: The Photographer as Agricultural Sociologist. The Journal of American History, Vol. 93, No. 3 (Dec., 2006), pp. 698-727


Hurt, R. Douglas. The Dust Bowl: An Agricultural and Social History. Chicago: Nelson-Hall 1981.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech, "I Have a Dream." Alvarea, Alexander. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream": The Speech Event as Metaphor . Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 18, No. 3 (Mar., 1988), pp. 337-357 .
Coldplay's Album "Viva La Vida Hermes, Will. Vive La Difference!. Rolling Stone, June 26, 2008. Issue 1055, p73-74.
Kleinfield, N. R., "U.S. Attacked; Hijacked Jets Destroy Twin Towers and hit Pentagon in Day or Terror" New York Times. September 12, 2001 Greene, Jacqueline Dember, The 2001 World Trade Center Attack. Bearport Publishing, 2007.
Ruhama Baptist Church Records Bee, Fanna K. Bee, and Lee N. Allen. Sesquicentennial History: Ruhama Baptist Church 1819 - 1969. Birmingham: Oxmoor Press, 1969.

Other Examples of Primary Resources

  • Census Records
  • City Directories
  • Maps
  • Oral Histories
  • Research Studies

Finding Primary Sources on the Web

Further Information