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primary sources...
...are original, uninterpreted information.
Unedited, firsthand access to words, images, or objects created by persons directly involved in an activity or event or speaking directly for a group. This is information before it has been analyzed, interpreted, commented upon, or repackaged.
Some types of primary sources include:
ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS Interviews, diaries, discussions, debates, emails, manuscripts, letters, autobiographies, official records.
CREATIVE WORKS Artwork, sketches.
RELICS OR ARTIFACTS Pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings.
secondary sources
...interpret, analyze or summarize.
Commentary upon, or analysis of, events, ideas, or primary sources. Because they are often written significantly after events by parties not directly involved but who have special expertise, they may provide historical context or critical perspectives.
Some types of seconday sources include:
PUBLICATIONS Books, magazine articles, newspapers, histories, criticisms, commentaries, encyclopedias
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Bias Rule
Every source is biased in some way.

Documents tell us only what the creator of the document thought happened, or perhaps only what the creator wants us to think happened.

  • Every piece of evidence and every source must be read or viewed skeptically and critically.
  • No piece of evidence should be taken at face value. The creator's point of view must be considered.
  • Each piece of evidence and source must be cross-checked and compared with related sources and pieces of evidence.
Questions for Analyzing Primary Sources
The following questions may help you judge the quality of primary sources:
  1. Who created the source and why? Was it created through a spur-of-the-moment act, a routine transaction, or a thoughtful, deliberate process?
  2. Did the recorder have firsthand knowledge of the event? Or, did the recorder report what others saw and heard?
  3. Was the recorder a neutral party, or did the creator have opinions or interests that might have influenced what was recorded?
  4. Did the recorder produce the source for personal use, for one or more individuals, or for a large audience?
  5. Was the source meant to be public or private?
  6. Did the recorder wish to inform or persuade others? (Check the words in the source. The words may tell you whether the recorder was trying to be objective or persuasive.) Did the recorder have reasons to be honest or dishonest?
  7. Was the information recorded during the event, immediately after the event, or after some lapse of time? How large a lapse of time?