This guide will introduce students to three types of resources or sources of information: primary, secondary, and tertiary.
Primary sources are firsthand documents that provide direct evidence on your topic.
The Library of Congress refers to them as the "raw materials of history — original documents and objects which were created at the time under study. They are different from secondary sources, accounts or interpretations of events created by someone without firsthand experience."
A primary source is most often created during the time the events you are studying occurred, such as newspaper articles from the period, correspondence, diplomatic records, original research reports and notes, diaries etc. They may also include items created after the events occurred, but that recount them such as autobiographies and oral histories.
|Relics and Artifacts
|News film footage
Secondary Sources are accounts written after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. They are interpretations and evaluations of primary sources. Secondary sources are not evidence, but rather commentary on and discussion of evidence.¹
¹ Yale University Library, "Primary, secondary & tertiary sources" http://guides.library.yale.edu/content.php?pid=129904&sid=1196376
|Essays or reviews
|Literary criticism such as journal articles
|Magazine and newspaper articles
|Monographs, other than fiction and autobiographies
|Reprints of art works
|Textbooks (could also be considered tertiary)
|Websites (could also be considered primary)
A tertiary source presents summaries or condensed versions of materials, usually with references back to the primary and/or secondary sources.
A statement of the law itself from a governmental entity, such as a court, legislature, executive agency, President or Governor.
Materials that discuss, explain, interpret, and analyze what the law is or what it should be.
|Primary Sources in law
|Secondary Sources in law
|Code of Federal Regulations
|Articles about law
|Contracts, wills, other legal documents
|Books about law
|Law reference books
|Text of legislative bills
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