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Primary and Secondary Sources: Primary vs. Secondary Sources

What are Primary & Secondary Sources?

Primary sources are the raw materials of history — original documents and objects which were created at the time under study. They are different from secondary sources, accounts or interpretations of events created by someone without firsthand experience. (read more at Library of Congress)

Secondary sources interpret primary sources, and include comments on, interpretations of, or discussions about the original material.  It helps to think of secondary sources as second-hand information. 

The definition of a primary source often varies depending upon the academic discipline and the context in which it is used. (read more at Lafayette College)

Library Databases

The following library databases are excellent for finding primary sources:

American History Online

New York Times - Historical (1851-2003)

History Reference Center

Sources in U.S. History Online the Civil War

Login Required for Off Campus Access:

PantherWeb Login (Recommended)
Click Library Quick Link

LINCCWeb Login
Borrower ID (24901...) & PIN (MMYY)


LibGuides on Primary & Secondary Sources
Created by academic and public librarians

Examples of Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary sources may include letters, manuscripts, diaries, eye witness accounts journals,speeches, interviews, government documents, photographs, maps, audio recordings, moving pictures, videorecordings, original research reports, literary or theatrical works, objects and artifacts, such as works of art, ancient buildings, pottery or weapons.

They may also include books, newspapers and magazine articles published at the time, or soon after the fact, but not historical accounts.

View a list of things that might be considered primary sources by different academic disciplines


Finding Primary Sources
Library of Congress Collections

Finding Primary Sources on the Web
American Library Association | Reference & User Services Association.

Florida Memory Project
Division of Library & Information Services

Primary Documents Online
California State University San Marcos Library

History Primary Sources
Spartacus Educational UK

Or try adding the phrase "primary sources" to your Internet searches.