Primary vs Secondary Sources

A primary source is an original object or document -- the raw material or first-hand information. Primary sources include historical and legal documents, eyewitness accounts, results of experiments, statistical data, pieces of creative writing, and art objects.

Examples include:

  • diaries and letters
  • autobiographies
  • oral histories
  • interviews
  • newspaper articles written at the time
  • speeches
  • government publications

A secondary source is something written about a primary source. Secondary sources include comments on, interpretations of, or discussions about the original material. You can think of secondary sources as second-hand information.

Examples include:

  • journal or magazine articles
  • biographies
  • commentary or criticism
  • monographs (books), other than autobiography
  • documentaries

About Primary Sources

The following are only a small sample of what is available.  If you have a specific primary source need, please contact Barbara Lewis, your librarian, at bilewis@usf.edu or 813-974-4040. 

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