Primary sources are records of events as they are first described, usually by witnesses or people who were involved in the event. Many primary sources were created at the time of the event but can also include memoirs, oral interviews, or accounts that were recorded later. Other examples include:
Photos, original artwork, posters, and films, not only for the factual information they contain, but also for the insight they may provide into how people view their world.
Sets of data, such as census statistics, which have been tabulated but not interpreted.
In the sciences or social sciences, primary sources report the results of an experiment.
Secondary sources offer an analysis or a restatement of primary sources. They often attempt to describe or explain primary sources.
Some secondary sources not only analyze primary sources, but also use them to argue a contention or persuade the reader to hold a certain opinion. Examples of secondary sources include dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, and books and articles that interpret, analyze, or review research works.
Some Sources May be Both Primary and Secondary
It can sometimes be difficult to determine whether a particular source is primary or secondary, because the same source can be a primary source for one topic and a secondary source for another topic. David McCullough’s biography, John Adams, could be a secondary source for a paper about John Adams but a primary source for a paper about how various historians have interpreted the life of John Adams.
Examples of Primary & Secondary Sources
article critiquing a piece of art
book about the underground railroad
book or article on a particular genre of poetry
essay on Native American land rights
Science or Social Sciences
report of an original experiment
review of several studies on the same topic
video of a performance
biography of a playwright
Booth Family Center for Special Collections (Lauinger Library)
The Booth Family Center for Special Collections is home to Georgetown University’s rare books, manuscript collections, the Georgetown University Archives, and the University Art Collection. Located on the fifth floor of Lauinger Library, it preserves and protects primary resources and unique items for future generations. Georgetown students are encouraged to take advantage of these collections. For more information, follow the links below:
Archives Unbound presents topically-focused digital collections of historical documents that support the research and study needs of scholars and students at the college and university level. Collections in Archives Unbound cover a broad range of topics from the Middle Ages forward-from Witchcraft to World War II to twentieth-century political history.
Comprehensive digital library containing images of artworks, photographs, architecture, decorative arts, rare books, and items from popular culture. Images may be viewed live in ARTstor or offline in ARTstor's downloadable image viewer.
DigitalGeorgetown supports the advancement of education and scholarship at Georgetown and contributes to the expansion of research initiatives, both nationally and internationally. It encompasses Digital and Special Collections content from the university library, the University's institutional repository of scholarly works, and select titles from Georgetown University Press.
HathiTrust is a partnership of academic & research institutions, offering a collection of millions of titles digitized from libraries around the world.
To login to Georgetown's instance of HathiTrust click on the large yellow "Log In" button. Select "Georgetown University" as your partner institution and click "Continue". Once prompted, login in using your NetID and password.
Offers permanent access for researchers, historians and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format. It includes texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages. E-book collections include Text Archive and Project Gutenberg.
Collection of digital facsimile images of 61,000 works of literature on economics and business published from 1450 through 1945. Covers commerce, finance, social conditions, politics, trade and transport.
The largest dictionary and the most complete historical record of the English language. Use for:
--How a word was used in a specific time period
--When a word or phrase (e.g., fagged out) was first used
--Where words come from (etymology)
--Sample quotations using a particular word
Complete historical coverage of The Atlanta Constitution, The Baltimore Sun, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. Click the "more" link below for direct links.