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Primary and Secondary Sources

PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SOURCES What is Primary Sources? * Primary sources are original materials. Generally, primary sources are not accounts written after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. * Information for which the writer has no personal knowledge is not primary, although it may be used by historians in the absence of a primary source.

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* Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They are created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring. Examples of Primary Sources: * archives and manuscript material * photographs, audio recordings, video recordings, films * journals, letters and diaries * speeches * scrapbooks * published books, newspapers and magazine clippings published at the time * government publications * oral histories * records of organizations * autobiographies and memoirs * printed ephemera * artifacts, e. g. clothing, costumes, furniture * research data, e. g. public opinion polls What is Secondary Sources? * Offer an interpretation or analysis of the primary source materials. * Second hand accounts of historical events. Secondary sources are works of synthesis and interpretation based upon primary sources and the work of other authors. They may take a variety of forms. The authors of secondary sources develop their interpretations and narratives of events based on primary sources, that is, documents and other evidence created by participants or eyewitnesses. ¦ Examples of Secondary Sources: * articles, * biographies, * books, * textbooks, * Reports on events, etc. THINGS TO ASK WHEN EVALUATING PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SOURCES: * How does the author know these details (names, dates, and times)? Was the author present at the event or soon on the scene? * Where this information does came from? Eyewitness accounts? Reports written by the others? * Are the author’s conclusion based on a single piece of evidence, or have many sources been taken into account? SOME TECHNIQUES FOR TESTING THE AUTHENTICITY OF PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SOURCES: * Check the currency of secondary sources. * Make certain primary sources are housed in a reputable archive and/or have been indexed or catalogue by experts in the source’s discipline. * Research the authority and credentials of journal article author. Cross check to see if others researches agree with your critique. HOW CAN I TELL IF SOMETHING IS A SECONDARY SOURCE? As with any research, examine the document or article carefully for accuracy and credibility. Use the following questions to help you determine whether or not you are using a credible secondary source. AUTHORS: * How does the author know what he/she knows? * Does his/her knowledge stem from personal experience or having read about and analyzed an event? * Does the author cite several other (published) reports? CONTENT: Why is the information being provided or the article written? * Are there references to other writings on this topic? * Is the author interpreting previous events? * Does the information come from personal experience or other’s accounts? CURRENCY: * Is the date of publication evident? * Is the date of publication close to the event described or was it written much later? Sources: * http://www. yale. edu/collections_collaborative/primarysources/primarysources. html * http://www. mitchellteachers. org * http://www. slideshare. net/stellacomans/primary-and-secondary-sources-7878126