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UC Merced Library Special Collections and University Archives

What Are Primary Sources?

Primary sources are original documents that record an idea, event, or occurrence. Using primary sources in research can assist individuals with gaining valuable insights into an event or person. Some examples of primary sources include:

  • Diaries and journals
  • Correspondence / E-mails
  • Photographs
  • Maps
  • Lab notes
  • Oral histories
  • Datasets

Secondary sources are those documents that are based upon primary sources, or those that use primary sources as sources for their materials. They can be understood as those documents that were produced by a someone removed from a person or event. Using multiple secondary sources on a person or event can give you a variety of viewpoints on that person or event. Examples of secondary sources include:

  • Critical analysis of a subject or person
  • Scholarly monographs
  • Most documentaries