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Gender & Sexuality Studies

Primary v Secondary Sources


Primary Source

A primary is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event. 

Sometimes finding primary sources can be difficult. Try searching by keyword for Primary Sources in the Library Catalog
Perform a keyword search for your topic and add one of the words below:

* charters
* correspondence
* diaries
* early works
* interviews
* manuscripts
* oratory
* pamphlets
* personal narratives
* sources
* speeches
* letters
* documents

Secondary Sources

A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may have pictures, quotes or graphics of primary sources in them. 

Tertiary Sources

A tertiary source is a source that builds upon secondary sources to provide information. The most common example is an encyclopedia.


Consider a particular revolution as an historical event. All the documents from the time become primary sources. All the historians writing later produce secondary sources. Then someone reads those secondary sources and summarizes them in an encyclopedia article, which becomes a tertiary source. 


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Sara Howard

Firestone Library
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Office: 14J.1
(609) 258-4043