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Primary Sources & Archives: Home

What is a Primary Source?

A primary source provides direct or firsthand evidence about an event, object, person, or work of art. Primary sources include:

  • historical and legal documents
  • eyewitness accounts
  • results of experiments
  • statistical data
  • pieces of creative writing
  • audio and video recordings
  • speeches
  • art objects
  • interviews
  • surveys and fieldwork
  • Internet communications via email, blogs, listservs, and newsgroups 

-- Adapted from Ithaca College Library

What is a Secondary Source?

Secondary sources describe, discuss, interpret, comment upon, analyze, evaluate, summarize, and process primary sources. Secondary source materials can be:

  • articles in newspapers or popular magazines
  • book or movie reviews
  • articles found in scholarly journals that discuss or evaluate someone else's original research

-- Adapted from Ithaca College Library


Primary Source: Secondary Source:
Lincoln's Gettysburg Address Lincoln at Gettysburg: the Words That Remade America by Gary Wills
The poem: "Human Chain" by Seamus Heaney

"His Nibs: Self-Reflexivity and the Significance of Translation in Seamus Heaney's Human Chain." by Michael Parker in Irish University Review (November 2012), pp. 327-350.

The table: "Number of Offenses Known to the Police, Universities and Colleges" in the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, 2012 

An article in the Ithacan entitled "Study Finds Eastern Colleges Often Conceal Campus Crime"


Mackey, S., Carroll, I., Emir, B., Murphy, T., Whalen, E., & Dumenci, L. (2012). Sensory pain qualities in neuropathic pain. The Journal Of Pain, 13(1), 58-63. doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2011.10.002
[a study published in a peer reviewed journal]

Vance, E. (2014). Where Does It Hurt?. Discover, 35(4), 28-30.
[an article in a magazine that includes quotes from Sean Mackey, author of the peer reviewed article on pain]


Cynthia Scheibe's doctoral dissertation on the developmental differences in children's reasoning about Santa Claus. An article in Parents Magazine discussing experts' views on the harm of lying to children about Santa Claus.

How do I search for a Primary Source?

Whether you are searching the Library Catalog, databases, or Google Scholar, try adding these these terms to your search.  For example:   holocaust -- diaries

-- sources -- diaries
-- records -- letters
-- manuscripts -- narratives


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