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Guide to Secondary Source Research

Finding secondary sources in the Library for historical topics

What Is a Secondary Source?

Secondary sources are written by someone who was not present during the event or condition under discussion. Authors of secondary sources use primary sources or other secondary sources to gather their information.

When doing historical research, it is important to distinguish between primary and secondary sources.

"Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They are created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring, but primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later. Primary sources are characterized by their content, regardless of whether they are available in original format, in microfilm/microfiche, in digital format, or in published format." (What Are Primary Sources? Yale University)

For information about finding primary source materials, see the Finding Primary Sources for Historical Research user guide.

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