Primary sources are original records; secondary sources are usually books, newspapers and magazines.
What is a Primary Source?
A Primary Source is an original record. They provide clues about the past. Examples can include: letters, journals, diaries, files, reports, maps, plans and drawings, photographs, films, videos, slides or sound recordings.
They are called primary sources because the information they contain is original or first- hand. Primary Sources are, in effect, eyewitness accounts of past events. A Primary Source is a very useful way of reaching into the past and getting to know the people and events of the past. It could be said that primary sources allow people from the past to speak for themselves. They allow a better understanding of the thoughts and reactions of people to life and events in the past. Sometimes, these views or indeed the language used to express these views may seem strange and unfamiliar.
By examining primary sources you can ask questions like who, why, what, where and you are the one who decides what it means.
What is a Secondary Source?
A Secondary Source is not an original record. Examples of secondary sources are: books, newspapers and magazines.
They are known as 'secondary sources' because the information they contain is someone else's interpretation of events. Most information on the Internet is secondary. You need to think about who wrote the information and examine the source to see if there are any clues as to why the author may have interpreted the source in the way they have.
In using primary sources it is important to be aware of the wider context into which these primary sources fit. This is where Secondary Sources are invaluable. Secondary Sources provide a background of information on a period or an event that can help explain the context of primary sources. Just as primary sources are a product of their time, so too are secondary sources. Remember, Secondary Sources are interpretations by someone, such as a historian or a journalist, of events. This person carries with them their own "baggage" which can reflect in their interpretation of the past. Perspective is an important feature to note in any source we use to come to conclusions.