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HIST 3800: Pictures, Media, and US Politics

Types of Sources

Primary Source
Original material created at the time of the event or by the subject you are studying. This kind of material is the closest you can get to your actual subject, unfiltered by later scholars and critics. Examples of primary sources include:

personal letters
original works of research
interviews/ transcripts
scientific samples
survey and poll data
newspaper accounts of an event as it happened
field notes

Secondary Source
A work that analyzes primary sources. They can also act as primary sources, depending on your subject. Secondary sources include:

journal articles
books and monographs
critical reviews

Tertiary Source
A source that indexes or otherwise collects primary or secondary sources. These sources tend to be most useful as jumping off points for your research, leading you to the more in-depth secondary and primary material. Examples include:

online indices


Adapted with permission from Brown University Library, "Types of Sources." Research Help DIY, Accessed 7 November 2016.

Primary vs. Secondary Sources on the Web

Watch this 3 minute video for insight into primary vs. secondary sources on the internet.