Secondary sources interpret primary sources. They are at least one step removed from the original event, account or phenomenon studied. They interpret, assign values and/or draw conclusions about an event. Secondary sources are usually in the form of published works.
Examples of secondary sources are:
- Newspaper articles (These may be considered a primary source when they are factual and are describing an original event. For example, a newspaper reporter might witness a fire and report on the fire the day after it happens.)
- Magazine articles
- Journal articles
- Radio or television documentaries (These may contain portions of primary documents. For example, a documentary on Martin Luther King, Jr. may contain original footage of his “I Have a Dream” speech)
Still not sure how to tell one from the other? Ask yourself these questions:
- How does the author know these details (names, dates, and times)? Was the author present at the event or soon at the scene?
- Where does this information come from – personal experience, eyewitness accounts, or reports written by others?
- Are the author's conclusions based on a single piece of evidence, or have many sources been taken into account e.g. diaries, along with third party eyewitness accounts, impressions of contemporaries, newspaper accounts?
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