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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Illinois Scholars Program (SOC 199)

What Is A Primary Source?

Primary sources are original artifacts or documents. They offer contemporary accounts from participants or people directly involved in an event. Examples of primary sources include, but are not limited to:

  • Diaries and literary memoirs
  • Letters/correspondence
  • Artistic works (musical and visual arts)
  • News segments/transcripts
  • Speeches
  • Interviews
  • Editorials
  • Legal documents and statistics 

While secondary sources are further removed from events and often reflect the author's perspective, using primary sources enables you to work with raw material and draw your own conclusions.

How To Find Primary Sources

The Undergraduate Library has created a guide that contains information for finding different types of primary sources. 

What Is A Secondary Source?

Secondary sources address or analyze events, people, works, or topics after the fact, unlike primary sources which provide firsthand accounts. 

Examples of secondary sources include:

  • Newspaper articles
  • Journal and magazine articles
  • Encyclopedias
  • Books

Secondary sources allow you to broaden your research by providing background information, analyses, and unique perspectives one or more steps removed from an original event or work.

How To Find Secondary Sources

The Undergraduate Library has created a guide that contains information for finding different types of secondary sources.