Answered By: Diane Shepelwich
Last Updated: Mar 30, 2020     Views: 231

Primary sources consist of materials produced by people present at an event.  They contain original, firsthand knowledge of the event.  For the humanities these might be diaries, letters, photographs, etc.  In the sciences, it might be the lab notebooks, studies, or an article in a scholarly journal reporting research and methodology.

Secondary sources are materials which interpret, comment, or analyze primary sources.  So, criticism of a novel would be a secondary source (the novel being the primary source).  An article analyzing and commenting on the results of original research would be secondary.

The SUNY-Albany Library has a good description and examples of these concepts:

For the sciences

For the humanities