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ENG 101: English Comp (Korzeniowski): Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary and Secondary Examples






The artwork

An article, book, opinion about the artwork



The speech

Information about the speech. Commentary about the speech



Photographs or videos of the event.

A report or article about the event.





Transcripts of the interview

An overview of the interview. An article or report about it.

Primary vs. Secondary

Primary Source

Secondary Source

Interview with person

Article about the interview


Commentary about the painting

Speeches by Martin Luther King Jr.

Biography about Martin Luther King Jr.


Paraphrased quotes

Historical documents

History books

What is a primary source?

The original document, work of art, lab report, interview, etc. There has been no evaluation or interpretations of the material. It’s what research is based off of.


  • Artifacts (e.g. coins, plant specimens, fossils, furniture, tools, clothing, all from the time under study);
  • Audio recordings (e.g. radio programs)
  • Diaries;
  • Internet communications on email, listservs;
  • Interviews (e.g., oral histories, telephone, e-mail);
  • Journal articles published in peer-reviewed publications;
  • Letters;
  • Newspaper articles written at the time;
  • Original Documents (i.e. birth certificate, will, marriage license, trial transcript);
  • Patents;
  • Photographs
  • Proceedings of Meetings, conferences and symposia;
  • Records of organizations, government agencies (e.g. annual report, treaty, constitution, government document);
  • Speeches;
  • Survey Research (e.g., market surveys, public opinion polls);
  • Video recordings (e.g. television programs);
  • Works of art, architecture, literature, and music (e.g., paintings, sculptures, musical scores, buildings, novels, poems).​

What is a secondary source?

Secondary sources are written about the primary sources. They are written after the fact, as commentary or discussion of the primary source.

Examples include:

  • Bibliographies;
  • Biographical works;
  • Commentaries, criticisms;
  • Dictionaries, Encyclopedias ;
  • Histories;
  • Journal articles;
  • Magazine and newspaper articles ;
  • Monographs, other than fiction and autobiography;
  • Textbooks;
  • Web site (also considered primary).​

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