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Primary sources


Primary sources provide a first-hand account of an event or time period and are considered authoritative. They are usually the first formal appearance of original research

Examples of primary resources include:

  • original documents e.g. birth certificates, trial transcripts
  • biographies, autobiographies, manuscripts
  • creative art works, literature
  • speeches, oral histories, interviews
  • diaries, letters, ships' logs
  • theses or dissertations
  • constitutions, case law, legislation, regulations, 
  • government documents, statistical data, research reports
  • journal articles reporting new research or findings
  • newspaper reportage and editorial/opinion pieces

Secondary sources

Magnifying glass

Secondary sources offer an analysis, interpretation or restatement of primary sources. They are regarded as persuasive, and often involve generalisation, synthesis, commentary or evaluation in an attempt to convince the reader of the producer's argument.

Examples of secondary sources include:

  • journal articles that analyse or comment on research
  • textbooks
  • theses or dissertations
  • books that interpret, analyse
  • biographies
  • dictionaries and encyclopaedias
  • political commentary
  • newspaper editorial/opinion pieces
  • criticisms of music, art work or literature