Skip to Main Content


Definitions (from Pennington School)

A primary source is an original material created during the time under study. Primary sources can be original documents, creative works, published materials of the times, institutional and government documents or relics and artifacts

Secondary sources put primary sources in context. They comment, summarize, interpret or analyze information found in primary sources. Secondary sources are usually written by individuals who did not experience firsthand the events about which they are writing.

Examples (from Penington School)

  Primary Sources

 Secondary Sources

· autobiography


· painting or object of art

·article reviewing or criticizing the art

· personal diary or letter(s)

·book about the person or event

· treaty (government document)

·essay interpreting the document

· poem, novel, short story, etc.

·literary criticism of the work

· firsthand observer accounts of event

·report on event years later

· play, film, television show

·biography of writer

· speech given by a person

·commentary on the speech

· research reports by researchers

·interpretation of the research

· photographs

·explanation of photographs

Selected Sources