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HIS 353: Twentieth Century Europe, 1914-Present

What is a primary source?

A primary source is the "raw" information about which researchers write directly. These sources were produced at the time of an event, or later as a memoir. Examples include correspondence, photos, and newspaper articles.

A secondary source is a source about an event, person, or place, usually based on the analysis or interpretation of primary source materials. Examples include academic articles and books. Keep in mind that a secondary source could be a primary source depending on your research focus. For example, a book about U.S. history written in the 1950s is a secondary source, unless you are studying how history was studied in the 1950s, in which case the book becomes a primary source.

A tertiary source identifies or synthesizes the information of secondary and primary sources. Examples include encyclopedias, dictionaries, and bibliographies.

Primary, secondary, and tertiary source chart

Chart from Loyola Marymount University's Primary Sources Research Guide.