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.

LGBT 200: Introduction to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies

Guide to resources for LGBT 200

Primary / Secondary Sources

What is a Primary Source?

Primary sources are usually defined as first-hand information or data that is generated by witnesses or participants in past events.
Primary sources are characterized not by their format but rather by the information they convey and their relationship to the research question. The interpretation and evaluation of these sources becomes the basis for other research.

Primary sources provide direct evidence and information in order to better understand objects, people, places, and events from the past. Researchers use these materials for many reasons, including researching historical people, places, and events; family history; literary analysis; statistical research; studying performance practice; legal research; and marketing.

Primary sources are original records created at the time historical events occurred or well after events in the form of memoirs and oral histories.

Primary sources may include letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, speeches, interviews, memoirs, documents produced by government agencies such as Congress or the Office of the President, photographs, audio recordings, moving pictures or video recordings, research data, and objects or artifacts such as works of art or ancient roads, buildings, tools, and weapons.

Secondary sources are documents created later by someone who did not experience first-hand or participate in the events or conditions you are researching.

Secondary sources are accounts or analyses written after the fact by historians and other scholars making use of primary sources (and also other secondary sources). 

The main forms of secondary sources are books, textbooks, reference books (such as an encyclopedia), and journal articles.