Primary and Secondary Sources
Natural and social sciences: interviews or surveys, experimental results or findings, field notes, or other types of original data collected by a researcher
Literature or the arts: poems, stories, novels, plays, musical scores, paintings, photographs, or other original texts, compositions, or artwork
History: photographs, memoirs, letters, diaries, newspaper articles from the time of an event, government documents, oral histories, or other firsthand accounts. See our Guide for Finding Historical Primary Sources.
Secondary sources offer an analysis, assessment, interpretation, or even summary of a topic, typically drawing on primary sources. Books, articles, or other sources that discuss or analyze a topic usually would be considered secondary sources. In the sciences, an example of a secondary source is a review article, while an example from literature would be a critical analysis of a novel or poem.
Important: Note that these categories are not mutually exclusive. The same document, or any other piece of evidence, may be a primary source in one investigation and secondary in another.
See these other pages for further help:
- Identifying Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources (University of North Carolina, Wilmington Library)
- How to Distinguish Between Primary and Secondary Sources (University of California, Santa Cruz)