Types of Sources
Your professor may have asked you to use primary sources for a research paper. This guide will help you become familiar with the three main types of sources.
- Original documents with no interpretation, evaluation, or analysis
- Original documents created contemporaneously with the event under discussion
- Reflects the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer.
- Usually found in library or manuscript collections. Many have also been copied onto microfilm, published, reissued, translated, or, in some instances, published digitally on the web.
- The research librarians can assist you in locating primary sources.
Examples of primary sources:
- Books, magazine and newspaper articles published at the time
- Speeches, interviews, letters, memoirs, autobiographies
- Public opinion polls
- Artifacts of all kinds: physical objects, furniture, tools, clothing, etc.
- Photographs, audio recordings, movies and videos
- Sources that interpret, evaluate, or analyze a primary source
- At least one step removed from the event.
Examples of secondary sources:
- Articles in scholarly journals that interpret literary or art works, historical events or persons. See "Types of Periodicals."
- Commentaries and annotations accompanying the primary sources in the same volume. These are often referred to as critical editions.
- Books summarizing, synthesizing, or retelling historical events
- Biographies, critical works, commentaries
- Sources that compile, summarize, digest, or index secondary sources
Examples of tertiary sources:
- Print or online indexing and abstracting resources, such as: Sociological Abstracts, MLA Bibliography, PsychInfo, Expanded Academic Index
- Reference works, such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases, handbooks, chronologies
- Book-length bibliographies
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 30th, 2011