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History: Primary and Secondary Sources

This guide features many of the history resources available at Mountain View College Library.

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Types of Sources

Primary Sources

The Library of Congress describes primary sources as "raw materials of history-original documents and objects which were created at the time under study." Primary sources are original, first-hand, authoritative accounts of an event.

Examples of Primary Sources include:

  • Letters, diaries, journals
  • First hand newspaper reports
  • Speeches, memoirs, autobiographies
  • Original photographs
  • Creative works of plays, paintings and songs
  • Research Data and surveys

 

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources interpret primary sources. They are at least one step removed from the original event or account. It is a secondhand version of events.

Examples of Secondary Sources include:

  • Essays and reviews
  • Textbooks
  • Criticisms and commentaries
  • Articles that discuss events and ideas