Marymount California University Library

ID 230: Assignment #3 - Distinguishing & Selecting Between Primary, Secondary, & Tertiary Sources

What is a Primary Source?

Primary Sources are created as close to the original event or phenomenon as it is possible to be. For example, a photograph or video of an event is a primary source. Data from an experiment is a primary source. Primary sources provide raw data. Primary sources allow researchers to get as close as possible to original ideas, events, and empirical studies as possible. 

Use primary sources when you want to make claims or criticisms, as evidence for theories, or to gain timely perspectives on a topic.

Some examples of primary sources are:

  • Artifacts 
  • Empirical Paper
  • Poems
  • letters
  • diaries
  • original paintings
  • interviews
  • speeches 
  • photographs 
  • oral histories 
  • films
  • government publications 
  • plays



History:  Transcript of speech given by Queen Elizabeth I; newsreel footage of World War II

Literature: Fiction such as Miguel de Cervantes' novel, Don Quixote; Franz Kafka's short story, The Metamorphosis, or poetry by Robert Frost. 

Art: Works by artists such as Pablo Picasso's painting, Three Musicians; or Michelangelo's sculpture, David

Social Sciences: Interview transcripts of mentally ill patients; raw, analyzed population data; newspaper articles about events. 

Natural Sciences: Analyzed results from biological study; analyzed field data collected by environmental org; original experiments or research.

Examples: court cases, newspaper articles about current events.


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