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Ancient Mediterranean Art and Archaeology

Primary and Secondary Sources

A primary source is something that was created at the time of an event or by someone who was at an event. Examples of primary sources are:

  • letters and diaries
  • interviews and oral histories and autobiographies
  • articles written at the time of the event
  • creative works such as paintings and plays
  • photographs

A secondary source is something that analyzes or interprets a primary source. Examples include:

  • books, including biographies
  • scholarly articles
  • articles that interpret an event after it has happened

Understanding the Difference

The 3-minute video below can help clarify. As you watch the video answer the following:

  • What are primary sources?
  • Write down 4 examples of primary sources:
  • Write down 3 examples of secondary sources:
  • What do secondary sources do?
  • Write down 1 example of something that can be primary or secondary:
  • What makes the difference of if that item should be called primary or secondary?

Whether a source is considered primary or secondary depends on the context of its use. When in doubt, talk to a librarian!