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Primary vs. Secondary Sources in Comm Arts  

A guide concerning primary vs. secondary sources in Comm Arts for projects about different wars.
Last Updated: Apr 7, 2011 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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JFK Assassination


Primary vs. Secondary


What About Newspapers?

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Primary vs. Secondary Sources Quiz:

Please take this quiz at the end of the class period.  It is for a GRADE and will be put in the gradebook as your assignment for the day: Primary vs. Secondary Sources Quiz


What are Primary Sources?

What is a primary source?

A primary source is any source of information that was created at the time of an event.  This includes artifacts, documents, videos, audio clips, newspaper articles, letters, journals, photographs, speeches, and more.

To make identifying a primary source easier, we can use the following criteria:


1. Created at the time an event occurred or during the time period of the event.

2. Contains first-hand accounts of the event or original information about the event.

3. Are factual and free of interpretation or bias.


Original video of the moment of assassination of President John F. Kennedy

Photograph of an attack on civilians during the Vietnam War

Newspaper article with a Holocaust survivor's first-hand account of the concentration camp

A copy of an original document like the Constitution


What are Secondary Sources?

What is a secondary source?

A secondary source is any source of information that presents information that is NOT original or created at the time of an event.  These sources usually reference or use primary sources as well as other secondary sources.  It is at least one step removed from the primary source and is usually created to reflect on the event with the passage of time.

To make identifying a secondary source easier, we can use the following criteria:


1. Not created at the time of the event and/or do not contain first-hand accounts.

2. Collects and presents information about the event from a variety of sources, including primary sources.

3. Include interpretation of an event and/or analysis of the event and its effects.


Textbook of American History

Journal article concerning World War Two

Newspaper article summarizing the causes of the Iraq War

Novel collecting short stories based on Holocaust survivor experiences


Wait! What About Newspapers?!

Are newspapers primary or secondary sources?

Newspaper can be EITHER primary or secondary sources.  It depends on the information presented in your newspaper article.  If the information is presented as a first-hand account OR an article created at the time of the event, it is primary.  However, if the article presents opinion or a review of events, it is secondary.

To make identifying a newspaper as a primary or secondary easier, we can use the following criteria:


Primary newspaper articles are created at the time of an event OR they present a first-hand account (like an interview with a participant)

Secondary newspaper articles are composed of second-hand accounts OR present opinion OR a review of events.

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