Compare Primary and Secondary Sources
Primary and secondary sources provide the foundation of research when studying history and social studies topics.
As you may recall, a primary source is a text that contains information provided by a person who experienced an event. Journals, letters, and interviews with eyewitnesses are types of primary sources. A primary source can also be information from the time being studied. Firsthand accounts in newspapers from the time and historical documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, are also types of primary sources.
Sometimes authors write about events or things that they did not witness or experience. These texts are called secondary sources. Secondary sources are based on primary sources. They often appear as magazine articles that contain information gathered by reporters and researchers. Books are another kind of secondary source when they are written by someone who did not witness an event.
Sometimes authors examine the relationship between primary and secondary sources that focus on the same topic. Analyzing such a relationship can result in a deeper understanding of the texts and of the topic being studied. It is especially worth considering what benefits or limitations each type of source offers.
Click the Model button to see an example of how to analyze the relationship between a primary and a secondary source.