Media Monday: Primary and Secondary Sources by Angela Ferraris

When I am reading an article online or watching a news channel, I must take in account if it is a primary source or not. Is this really someone’s commentary/opinion sounding like objective news? I need to question. I want objective news, a primary source. I can make my own opinions.

Primary Sources

Primary sources are those that you should always go to FIRST. They are the  first hand accounts, authoritative, the original source, raw information, direct access. They are original records of those involved in the event, witnessed it. Examples of these primary sources are:

  • birth certificate
  • death certificate
  • marriage license
  • speeches
  • diaries
  • letters
  • interviews
  • direct quotes of those involved
  • photographs(not altered)
  • video(not doctored)
  • audio recording of an event
  • treaty
  • performances
  • artwork
  • poem
  • maps
  • advertisement
  • artifacts
  • literary books
  • magazines
  • newspapers*
  • painting
  • sculpture
  • oral tradition of myths
  • chronicles
  • memoirs
  • tools
  • document
  • music
  • ephemera(like ticket stubs, green stamps, tin  label, baseball cards, wrapper, things that were meant for a short time on paper that are usually thrown out)

I would like to interject here how important it is for our children to be taught to write cursive in order to be able to read many of the primary sources. If this is not taught, I believe it supports an illiteracy of primary sources written by hand. 

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are evaluative of the primary sources, analysis, interpretative, commentary, second-hand information.They are written second after an event occurred, are shorter, written by people who study it and are to engage a reader. To restate the works of others. Examples of these are:

  • Books about a topic
  • analysis or interpretative of data
  • Scholarly articles of those not directly involved
  • reviews of books, movies, music
  • documentaries(even if they include primary sources)
  • essay
  • biography
  • critique of a piece of work
  • graphs, charts of data AFTER the time period
  • textbooks
  • newspaper report by someone who was not present for event
  • thesis

It is important to be sure to consider that a source could be a primary or a secondary depending how it is used. 

*I am noticing a huge increase of commentary and opinions in the newspapers/news media now of an event(secondary sources) instead of showing us the event(primary source). So, when I put newspaper as primary, keep in mind that I mean reporting from a journalist that was actually there. There are more secondary reporting going on in the newspaper/news media now so they could be considered secondary in some cases.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s