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Primary Sources/Secondary Sources

What is a primary source?

Primary sources provide the raw data you use to support your arguments. Some common types of primary resources include manuscripts, diaries, court cases, maps, data sets, experiment results, news stories, polls, or original research.  In many cases what makes a primary resource is contextual.  For example, a biography about Abraham Lincoln is a secondary resource about Lincoln. However, if examined as a piece of evidence about the nature of biographical writing, or as an example of the biographer's writing method it becomes a primary resource.

Primary Source Examples



 Primary source examples

 Anthropology, Archaeology

 Articles describing research, ethnographies, surveys,

cultural and historical artifacts

 Communications, Journalism

 News as reported events (printed, radio, TV, online), photographs,

blogs, social media sites

 Education, Political Science, Public  Policy

 Government publications, laws, court cases,

speeches, test results, interviews, polls, surveys

 Fine Arts

 Original art work, photographs, recordings of performances

and music, scripts (film, theatre, television), music scores,

interviews, memoirs, diaries, letters


 Government publications, newspapers, photographs,

diaries, letters, manuscripts, business records,

court cases, videos, polls, census data, speeches

Language and Literature

 Novels, plays, short stories, poems, dictionaries,

language manuals

Psychology, Sociology, Economics

 Articles describing research, experiment results, ethnographies, interviews, surveys, data sets


 Articles describing research and methodologies, documentation of lab research, research studies