This is the "Primary vs. Secondary Sources" page of the "Teaching and Learning with Primary Sources" guide.
Alternate Page for Screenreader Users
Skip to Page Navigation
Skip to Page Content

Teaching and Learning with Primary Sources  

Definitions and examples of primary sources as well as primary sources collections and lesson plans.
Last Updated: Oct 2, 2012 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Primary vs. Secondary Sources Print Page

Primary Sources

Primary sources can take many forms. Sometimes a source can be used as either a primary source or a secondary source dependent on the subject under study and how the researcher intends to use the source.

ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS (excerpts or translations acceptable):

  • diaries
  • recollections (example: memiors)
  • manuscripts
  • letters
  • photographs
  • maps
  • films
  • sound recordings
  • interviews
  • newpapers
  • magazines
  • advertisements
  • speeches
  • laws
  • goverment records
  • court cases


  • poetry
  • drama
  • music
  • works of art
  • novels


  • furniture
  • clothing
  • buildings and structures
  • pottery

Primary sources are not necessarily free from bias. A source may actually be inaccurate. It may be wanting for authority as well. Think like a historian when interacting with primary sources.


Is It or Isn't It?

How can I be sure I am using a primary sources?
Trying to figure out whether something is a primary or secondary source can be difficult at times.  For tips, visit this useful website from Yale University. It will help in figuring out such things as whether a book is a secondary or primary source.


Video Tutorial

My Profile

Profile Image
Lisa Gallinatti
Contact Info
Auburn Riverside High School
501 Oravetz Road SE
Auburn, WA 98092
Send Email
I just read:

Loading  Loading...