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HIST 315: France & the World: 1750 - Present: Primary & Secondary Sources

Primary Sources

A primary source is a document or record containing firsthand information or original data on a topic. Primary sources are created contemporaneously with the topic they describe. Examples of primary sources include:

  •  Original manuscripts
  •  Diaries
  •  Memoirs 
  •  Letters
  •  Journals 
  •  Photographs
  •  Drawings
  •  Interviews
  •  Government documents
  •  Public records
  •  Eyewitness accounts
  •  Artifacts


Summary of characteristics: 

  • Original, first-hand account of an event or time period
  • Usually written or made during or close to the event or time period
  • Original, creative writing or works of art
  • Factual, not interpretive


Secondary Sources

A secondary source is a work that is one step removed from the original source. Secondary sources are created after the fact, and describe, summarize, analyze, or evaluate primary sources. Examples of secondary sources include:

  • Reviews 
  • Critical analyses 
  • Biographical studies
  • Historical studies


 Summary of characteristics:

  • Analyzes and interprets primary sources
  • Second-hand account of an historical event
  • Interprets creative work