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What are Primary Sources?

Primary Sources are documents or records containing firsthand information or original data on a topic or event. 

Secondary sources are one step removed from the primary original source. The author is reexamining, interpreting and forming conclusions based on the information that is conveyed in the primary source. 

Is it, or isn't it?
Figuring out whether something is a primary or secondary source can be tricky. Sometimes it's not clear cut.

Primary vs Secondary Sources


Primary Source

Secondary Source


Slave diary

Book about the underground railroad


Original artwork created by an artist

Article critiquing the piece of art


Original poem written by a poet

Essay on a particular genre of poetry

Political Science

Treaty between two governments

Essay on Native American land rights in the US

Science or Social Sciences

Report of an original experiment

Review of several studies on the same topic


Videotape of a performance

Biography of a playwright

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