Research

Primary and Secondary Sources for History

When looking for sources for a history paper, it is important to know the difference between primary and secondary sources.

Primary Sources

A primary source is an item created by someone who lived during the historical event or time period that you are studying.

Primary sources can include:

  • government documents
  • memoirs
  • diaries
  • letters
  • court transcripts
  • speeches
  • marriage/birth/death certificates
  • artifacts
  • photos
  • paintings

Unsure about how to go about finding primary sources? Check out our handy guide: How To Find Primary Sources For History

Secondary Sources

A secondary source is an item created by someone who did not live during the time period that you are studying. A good secondary sources uses primary sources to interpret and analyse a particular event or time period.

Secondary sources can include:

  • articles
  • essays
  • criticisms
  • books

Primary and Secondary Sources in History