What is a secondary source?

A secondary source is one that was created later by someone that did not experience firsthand or participate in the events in which the author is writing about. Secondary sources often summarize, interpret, analyze or comment on information found in primary sources. Common examples of secondary sources include Books.


A step separates secondary sources from primary sources. They are essentially sources concerning primary sources. Among the secondary sources are:

  • essays examining books, artwork, and other unique materials
  • Textbook chapters describing certain ideas, occasions, and experiments
  • historical and famous person biographies
  • Books about certain occasions, ideas, movements, and creations
  • Academic and professional critics' critical works, such as movie reviews by film reviewers
  • Political analysis

See how primary and secondary sources differ from one another?

A secondary source allows you to view a work through the eyes of another writer, but a primary source gives you direct access to a work so that you can discuss, evaluate, and cite it.

For instance, a political commentator's column analyzing a president's speech is a secondary source, whereas the speech's text itself is a primary source.


You can learn more about the presentation and reception of the work under discussion by using secondary sources. It can also shed light on how the piece fits with, and in some cases even influences, the zeitgeist of the time.