What are primary sources and secondary sources, and how can I find them?

What are primary sources and secondary sources, and how can I find them?

Primary sources:

  • are created at the time of, or very soon after, an event, or
  • are created by a person who directly experienced the event
  • examples: diaries, letters, interviews, newspaper and magazine articles at the time of the event

Secondary sources:

  • are created after the original event
  • provide criticism or interpretation of the event and its primary sources
  • examples: textbooks, biographies, books and articles about past events

Some starting points to find primary sources:

  • search the library catalogue for your topic and include one of the following words or phrases:
    • autobiography
    • correspondence
    • description and travel
    • diaries
    • interviews
    • personal narratives
    • pictorial works
    • sources
  • use an appropriate tool from this list: Historical Journal, Magazine and Newspaper Articles

 For more information on defining and finding primary and secondary sources, please see these links: