Primary sources are documents, objects, or images created at the time of the event; they provide firsthand accounts or evidence of the time period you are studying.
Examples of primary sources are such things as:
The diary of a person living through the event, such as Anne Frank's original diary
A photograph of the event, such as the famous "Migrant Mother" photo taken by Dorothea Lange
A document produced at the time, like the Declaration of Independence
Newspaper accounts written at the time in question
Data sets such as surveys or a census
A recording of an oral history given by your grandmother
Letters, such as John and Annie Bidwell's correspondence
A piece of pottery made by ancient peoples
A quilt made in 1920 at Gee's Bend, Alabama
Primary sources allow researchers to get as close to the event as they can.
Digital representations of primary sources are scattered across the internet, often in specialized collections. Below are a few examples:
The migrant worker woman pictured, Florence Owens Thompson, had this photo taken in Nipomo. She spent some of her early years in Oroville.
Secondary sources are a step removed from the primary sources they use as material. They describe, analyze, or interpret the historical events for the reader. A historian or archeologist studies primary sources and then makes interpretations, synthesizing the information for the reader. Of course, our knowledge of history is always incomplete and imperfect, and is also always being refined and reinterpreted. Thus our ideas about virtually any historical event are now very different than they were 100, 50, or even 20 years ago.
Examples of secondary sources include:
The Butte College Library is filled with secondary sources -- which often feature transcriptions or images of primary sources as evidence. Search for books on your topic by entering a descriptive term into the Library's search box, for example:
Tertiary sources mostly tell you where to find primary and secondary sources; they summarize and direct the researcher to resources. Tertiary sources include:
Use tertiary sources to locate what you are looking for and to make sure that you have found the best information available. Some example of tertiary sources include: