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CPHS_IB Social Studies 12 - Historical Investigation: Primary vs. Secondary Sources

The purpose of this guide is to provide IB Social Studies students assistance with their research project. Standards Met:,,

Primary versus Secondary Resources

PRIMARY RESOURCES are resources that are original, firsthand evidence.PRIMARY RESOURCES include original documents such as diaries, records, autobiographies, letters, interviews, and research reports. The Diary of Anne Frank would be an example. PRIMARY RESOURCES also include an original creative work such as novels, paintings, and musical scores. An example would be The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.  A final type of PRIMARY RESOURCE would be an artifact like pottery, buildings, or clothing. The ruby slippers that Judy Garland wore while playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz would be an example.

SECONDARY RESOURCES, on the other hand, analyze or interpret a PRIMARY RESOURCE. They are usually produced after an event. Textbooks, encyclopedias, and magazine articles would be examples. For instance, a biography on the life of  Queen Victoria written after her death is a SECONDARY RESOURCE.

So, in the field of History,  if your topic focused on World War I weaponry, a photo of a weapon being used in a World War I battle, an actual weapon, a letter or journal in which a soldier describes using or being attacked with a particular weapon, would are examples of PRIMARY RESOURCES.  A book discussing the development and impact of weapons used during World War I (such as poisonous gases), written after the war, would be a SECONDARY RESOURCE.

Check out this short video from the Minnesota Historical Society: