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What are primary and secondary sources?
It is very important to understand the difference between primary and secondary sources when using library resources for your papers and projects. Primary and secondary sources, when used correctly, can help us to better understand people, ideas and events.
Primary sources are original materials. These sources are called primary, because they are the first evidence of something happening, or being thought or said.
Secondary sources describe, explain or interpret primary sources. These sources are called secondary, because they are created after primary sources and they often use or talk about primary sources.
Here are some examples:
    Primary Sources
  • autobiography
  • painting or object of art
  • personal diary or letters
  • speech given by a person
  • poem, novel, play, or short story
  • firsthand observer accounts of event
  • government document (e.g. treaty)
    Secondary Sources
  • biography
  • article reviewing or criticizing the art
  • book about the person or event
  • commentary on the speech
  • literary criticism of the work
  • report on event years later
  • essay interpreting the document
You can access further information, and examples, through Library and Archives Canada's Defining Primary and Secondary Sources page at: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/education/008-3010-e.html.
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