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 interpretation, discussion, or opinion about an original source or event.
What type of source should I use?
Context is important. The type of source you need depends on your topic of research. How you approach your topic can also affect whether a source is primary or secondary. If in doubt, discuss your topic with your instructor.
- Contemporary Newspapers
- Government Document
- Official Minutes
- Photograph, Song, Play
- Statistical Data
- Published Study
- Scientific Experiment
- Clinical Trail
- Conference Proceedings
- Technical Report
- Statistical Data
- Literary Criticism
- Theatre, Art, Book Reviews
- Interpretive Newspaper Articles
- Publication about Research
- Analysis of a clinical trial
- Review of results
Primary and Secondary Sources Work Together
20th Street North, Birmingham, Alabama circa 1913 by O.V. Hunt, Brantley Collection, Samford University
Atkins, Leah Rawls. The Valley and the Hills: An Illustrated History of Birmingham & Jefferson County. Woodland Hills, Calif: Windsor Publications, 1996.
Primary SourceMartin Luther King Jr.'s speech, "I Have a Dream."
Secondary SourceAlvarea, 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.
Primary SourceColdplay's Album "Viva La Vida
Secondary SourceHermes, Will. Vive La Difference!. Rolling Stone, June 26, 2008. Issue 1055, p73-74.
Primary SourceKleinfield, N. R., "U.S. Attacked; Hijacked Jets Destroy Twin Towers and hit Pentagon in Day or Terror" New York Times. September 12, 2001
Secondary SourceGreene, Jacqueline Dember, The 2001 World Trade Center Attack. Bearport Publishing, 2007.
Primary SourceRuhama Baptist Church Records
Secondary SourceBee, Fanna K. Bee, and Lee N. Allen. Sesquicentennial History: Ruhama Baptist Church 1819 - 1969. Birmingham: Oxmoor Press, 1969.