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History Research Guide

This guide will help you with your history research.

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Primary vs. Secondary Sources

primary source is a document, speech, or other sort of evidence written, created or otherwise produced during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event. Some types of primary sources include:

  • Diaries, journals, and letters
  • Newspaper and magazine articles (contemporary, factual accounts)
  • Government records (census, marriage, military)
  • Photographs, maps, postcards, posters
  • Recorded or transcribed speeches
  • Interviews with participants, witnesses, or people alive during the time under study
  • Songs, Plays, novels, stories
  • Paintings, drawings, and sculptures

A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may have pictures, quotes or graphics of primary sources in them. Some types of secondary sources include:

  • Biographies
  • Histories
  • Literary Criticism
  • Book, Art, and Theater Reviews
  • Newspaper articles that interpret

Information adapted from CUNY and Princeton libraries.