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G6: Ancient Civilizations

The Basics

What is a secondary source?

A secondary source is anything that describes, interprets, evaluates, or analyzes information from primary sources. 
When you cite a secondary source, it’s usually not to analyze it directly. Instead, you’ll probably test its arguments against new evidence or use its ideas to help formulate your own.

What is a primary source?

A primary source is anything that gives you direct evidence about the people, events, or phenomena that you are researching. Primary sources will usually be the main objects of your analysis. 
If you are researching the past, you cannot directly access it yourself, so you need primary sources that were produced at the time by participants or witnesses (e.g. letters, photographs, newspapers). 

Primary Source Examples

  • Letters and diaries
  • Photographs and video footage
  • Official documents and records
  • Physical objects
  • Novels and poems
  • Paintings and art installations
  • Films and performances
  • Interview transcripts
  • Recordings of speeches
  • Newspapers and magazine articles
  • Social media posts
  • Court records, legal text, and government documents

Finding Primary Sources on the Web

ALA: Finding Primary Sources on the Web

A great resource that shows where to find primary sources and how to use them in your research.