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Identify Different Types of Information Sources: Govt., Primary, & Secondary Sources

Government, Primary, and Secondary Sources

Stack of law books, "Federal Reporter"Any public information produced by federal, state or local and international governments is considered a primary source material that can be useful to any research project. A government document may be available in a variety of formats, including print, CD-ROM and online. They are a reliable source of detailed information on data and statistics on a specific topic.

Pile of old photos and letters.Primary sources contain first-hand evidence of events, usually recorded by someone who participated in, witnessed, or lived through the event. Primary sources are original documents or artifacts that stand on their own, published either in print or digital format.

Some commonly considered primary sources:

  • Artistic or creative works of art: poems, paintings, sculptures, or musical scores
  • Blogs or email and Twitter feeds
  • Court cases, legal decisions, and statutes
  • Diaries, letters, personal papers, memoirs, and autobiographies
  • Maps
  • Photographs, images, video footage, or television advertisements
  • Qualitative and quantitative data and research

Open dictionary.Secondary sources typically offer an analysis, interpretation, or evaluation of information gathered from primary sources. They cover the same topic but add a layer of interpretation. They also often provide background information on an event or work or offer a historical perspective based on other events that have taken place since the original event or work. Some examples of secondary sources:

  • Biographies and documentaries
  • Editorials
  • Journal articles that summarize original research, sometimes called "review articles" or "meta-analysis"
  • Dictionaries and handbooks

Additional Help

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Learn more about Primary & Secondary Sources by watching the tutorials linked below.

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