History 101 - South Bend-Elkhart

What is a Primary Source?
A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event.

Some types of primary sources include:

Original Documents (excerpts or translations acceptable): Diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film footage, newspaper articles reporting the event at the time, autobiographies, official records 
Creative Works: Poetry, drama, novels, music, art 
Relics or Artifacts: Pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings

Examples of primary sources include:

 • Declaration of Independence
 • Photographs of Civil War soldiers by Matthew Brady
 • Anne Hutchinson's Poetry
 • A journal article reporting NEW research or findings 
 • The letters of Abigail and John Adams
 • Newspaper articles published at the time
 • Benjamin Franklin's autobiography


Box 1: Enter "primary source" in a search box and select SO Journal Title from the drop down menu.
Box 2:  Enter your subject. 

Primary documents are distinguished by their own icon.

What is a Secondary Source?
A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may have pictures, quotes or graphics of primary sources in them.

Some types of secondary sources include:
Textbooks, magazine and journal articles, histories, criticisms, commentaries 

Examples of secondary sources include:

  • A journal/magazine article which interprets or reviews previous findings 
  • A history textbook 
  • A book about the economic aspects of slavery

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