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Primary & Secondary Sources

What are primary sources?

Primary sources are created during the time period you are researching. The source could also be produced at a later date by an individual recounting an event or period, such as in memoirs.

Examples of primary sources include diaries, personal correspondence, public records, transcripts, newspaper & magazine articles, government documents, and interviews.


What are secondary sources?

A secondary source analyzes a historical event or period. It may also be written based on a primary source. They usually involve an interpretation or criticism of a historical topic.

Examples of secondary sources include scholarly articles, textbooks, biographies, documentaries, and books.

Getting Started with Primary Sources

To get started with searching for primary sources, start with some background research to get an idea of the types of primary sources created during the time period. Try searching your topic in the following library resources to learn about some of the primary resources available on your topic.

For example when researching a historical figure, a preliminary search can help determine if there are materials written by your historical figure, or materials created by others recounting events related to the historical period.  

Finding Primary Resources

Here are some resources you can use to locate primary sources. See the Canadian History page for additional resources.


Search Seneca Libraries for Primary Sources



Search Tip: Try searching your topic and the type of primary source  (e.g., Abraham Lincoln letters)


Online Archives

Search Tip: Search Google for online archives on your topic or historical figure (e.g., Ida B. Wells archives)



Finding Secondary Sources

Search Seneca Libraries for books and articles on your historical figure or topic. You can also search for articles using the databases listed under the Journal, Newspaper and Magazine Articles page. For encyclopedias, see Background Information tab on the guide homepage.

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