Questions about Primary and Secondary Sources
What is a primary source?
A primary source is a document, image, or artifact that provides us with evidence about the past. (Also called a direct source.)
Documents (i.e., they are not about another document or account) are often diaries, letters, memoirs, journals, speeches, manuscripts, and interviews. They may also include published pieces such as newspaper or magazine articles (as long as they are written soon after the fact and not as historical accounts), photographs, audio or video recordings, or original literary or theatrical works.
What is a secondary source?
A secondary source is a book, article, film, or museum that displays primary sources selectively in order to interpret the past. (Also called a secondhand source.)
These are usually in the form of published works such as journal articles or books, but may include radio, television, or movie documentaries, or museum exhibits.
Are textbooks always secondary sources?
In most cases they are; however, not always. Consider the following research question: How was the Soviet Union portrayed in high school textbooks during the 1950s? In this example, textbooks from the 1950s would be a primary source because the textbook is a document from the time.
Finding Primary Sources
Try a Google Search that includes the terms "primary source" along with your topic keywords. Here's an example.
Start with a general article or articles on your topic from U.S History in Context database (from home use "oak30216").
Now you are ready to find the reviews on JSTOR (from home use "oprfhs" and "huskies").