Temecula Middle School

Primary vs. Secondary Sources


Primary sources are original materials. A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study.

A secondary sources interprets and analyzes primary sources.  These sources are one or more steps removed from the event.  Secondary sources may have pictures, quotes, or graphics of primary sources in them.  

Primary Sources - Where to start?

Free tools for accessing firsthand accounts and images are:


The U.S. National Archives Experience Digital Vaults

(Offers students a good introduction to discovering and working with primary source materials.)

Historical Science Investigation

(Hosted by the University of William & Mary School of Education, provides a good model for primary source-based classroom activities, presenting historical cases for students to crack.)

The World Digital Library

(A database of more than 7,000 primary source documents and images from around the world.  Sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations.  WDL can be searched by date, era, country, continent, topic, and type of resource.)


A world of primary sources and more.

Organizational Chart for Primary Sources.jpg

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Primary Source Examples

Primary Source Document 1 Primary Source Document 2 COFFIN3.jpg Germans Sign.jpg