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Primary and Secondary Sources: Intro to Primary & Secondary Sources

This guide explains the difference between primary and secondary sources. Students will learn how to locate primary and secondary sources by viewing the examples, watching the video tutorial, and using the recommended databases.


Primary and Secondary Sources


Welcome to the primary and secondary guide. When you look for sources for your research, it is a good practice to include primary and secondary sources. Primary sources are usually created at the time an event occurs, for example: autobiographies, correspondence, diaries, interviews, letters, memoirs, and speeches. Secondary sources interpret and analyze primary sources, often reflecting the author's opinion, for example: biographies, criticism, essays, histories, and reviews.


The information below includes lists of primary and secondary source examples, illustrations, and search tips. 

Primary Sources


Primary Sources

Primary sources are materials created at the time of an event. The author is describing their own research. 

  • Autobiographies
  • Diaries
  • Interviews
  • Letters
  • Memoirs
  • Speeches

Search Tips

Search Tips for Primary Sources

To search for primary sources, use the name of the subject and description of the source:

  • "Mass incarceration" AND Speeches
  • Feminists AND Diary
  • "Gulf War Syndrome" AND Study
  • "Hillary Clinton" AND Interview
  • "Martin Luther King" AND Speech

Primary Sources Illustrated

NJIT Library History LibGuide

Examples of Primary Sources

Examples of primary sources:

  • Artifacts: clothing, coins, furniture, pottery, etc.
  • Audio/Visual recordings
  • Autobiographies
  • Census and demograpic records
  • Diaries
  • Dissertations
  • Experiments, clinical trials
  • Government documents
  • Interviews
  • Journal articles/original research
  • Legal documents
  • Letters and correspondence
  • Manuscripts
  • Maps and atlases (contemporary)
  • Memoirs
  • News footage
  • Official records
  • Pamphlets
  • Papers delivered at conferences
  • Photographs
  • Posters
  • Speeches

Secondary Sources


Secondary Sources

Secondary sources interpret and analyze primary sources. Secondary sources reflect an author's opinion.

  • Biographies
  • Books
  • Criticism
  • Essays
  • Histories
  • Reviews

Search Tips

Search Tips for Secondary Sources

To search for secondary sources, use the name of the subject and the description of the source:

  • "Ain't I a woman?" AND Review
  • "American Revolutionary War" and Book
  • "Harriet Tubman" AND Biography
  • "Sinners in the hands of an angry God" AND Criticism
  • Terrorism AND Book

Secondary Sources Illustrated

NJIT Library History LibGuide

Examples of Secondary Sources

Examples of secondary sources:

  • Biographies
  • Books that discuss or analyze a topic
  • Commentaries
  • Criticisms
  • Encyclopedias
  • Indexes and abstracts
  • Journal or magazine articles from previous research
  • Newspaper articles
  • Reviews of art, books, movies, etc.
  • Textbooks


Susan Whitmer's picture
Susan Whitmer
TWU Libraries
P.O. Box 425528
Denton, TX 76204