Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Primary and secondary sources: Information types

Types of information that are primary and secondary sources

Primary information

1.1 First Hand:

First-hand evidence about an event, object, person or work of art.

1.2 Original:

Straight from the original source

1.3 Evidence:

Evidence made up of original documents and raw data


  • Historical and legal documents -these could be government publications, legal documents such as legislation and case law, oral histories, company records, eyewitness accounts.

  • Diaries - journals, letters and diaries.

  • Works of Art and Recordings - including photographs, audio recordings, video recordings and films, original works of art, creative writing.


Secondary information

2.1 Second-hand:

Created later by someone who didn't have first-hand experience. Secondary sources describe, discuss, interpret, comment upon, analyse, evaluate, summarize, and process primary sources.

2.2 Not original:

A secondary source is one that gives information about a primary source. Secondary sources involve generalization, analysis, synthesis, interpretation or evaluation of the original information.

2.3 After the event:

Written or produced after the event has passed with the benefit of hindsight.


  • Books - textbooks and monographs which provide broad, foundational coverage of a topic, usually with an in-depth analysis.

  • Scholarly Articles – are articles written and reviewed by experts in the discipline after the event or research has been undertaken.

  • Newspapers -news reports of something that has already happened.  Available in print and online and one of the first mediums to report on an event after social media.

Interactive Version