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Primary Sources- What Are They?: Definitions & Examples

Primary Source

Page From the 1555 edition  of the Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca's "Relacion" detailing his travels in the Americas. 

Secondary Source on Cabeza De Vaca's Journey

Here's an example of a secondary source.  Written using the primary source above

Primary Sources- What Are They Anyway?

Distinguishing Primary and Secondary Sources in History Research

The fundamental distinction between primary and secondary sources involves the difference between original data and later analysis. In various academic majors, this takes on distinct forms. For example, in fields such as , biology or psychology the original data often take the form of experiments. The  primary sources in these fields are the sources in which that data is reported and analyzed by the researcher -Usually, these take the form of  peer-reviewed journal articles.

In the humanities and history, the original data sources are typically the cultural artifacts produced at the time of the person, place, event, or other historical happening being studied. Journal articles are typically secondary sources, a very important place for interpretation of the data. Greatest importance is given to the those materials created by those who were part of the events being studied but other materials from the time period are also important. Time is the most important factor - in historical research, materials from the time period being studied have the most value as primary sources.


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Margaret Vaverek