Primary and Secondary Sources: What’s the Difference?

They contain raw information and thus, must be interpreted by researchers. Secondary sources are closely related to primary sources and often interpret them.

A primary source is a first-person account of an actual event, research data, or an original piece of writing. Examples of primary sources include the following:

  • images of historical occurrences
  • news reports
  • Short stories and novels
  • autobiographies of notable or historical figures
  • journals and letters
  • publications of essays and editorials
  • original artworks
  • Documentaries
  • extracts from podcasts and radio shows
  • Information from research and polls
  • polling data
  • Government documents relating to certain laws and policies
  • Laws (as in, the exact wording of an ordinance or law) (as in, the actual text of an ordinance or law)


Working with a primary source requires you to conduct your own analysis of the subject matter.

Your work has been used as a secondary source if someone else reads it and then mentions it in an article of their own (more on that later).

The information you acquired from your experiment serves as a major source for creating a lab report. Similar to this, your personal experiences at the event and any photos or videos you may have taken are primary sources if you're writing about an event you attended. 

However, primary sources don't always have to be your own original writing. They can also include memoirs about specific events, letters written by historical personalities, raw data from experiments conducted by others, images taken by others, and photos taken by others.