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General Resource Evaluation: Types of Resources

This guide helps you learn how to evaluate all types of resources to know whether or not they would be good to use in your research.

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

Primary Resources vs Secondary Resources

A primary source 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.

Some types of primary sources include:

  • Original documents, such as diaries, speeches, and letters
  • Creative works, such as poetry, drama, novels, music, and art
  • Relics or artifacts, such as pottery, furniture, and buildings


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.

Some types of secondary sources include:

  • Textbooks
  • Magazine and journal articles
  • Criticisms and commentaries
  • Encyclopedias


You will often be asked to research your topic using primary sources, but secondary sources will tell you which primary sources you should use and will help you interpret those primary sources. To use them well, however, you need to think critically about them and evaluate them.

Specific Examples

 
Primary Secondary
The Tempest by William Shakespeare

An article that analyzes the motif of the 'savage other' in The Tempest

The Diary of Anne Frank

A book about the Holocaust

The Declaration of Independence

A biography of Thomas Jefferson

Population statistics on Ethiopia from
The World Factbook

An article titled
"The Impact of Population Growth on Infant Mortality in Ethiopia"