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English, Literature & Poetry: Primary v. Secondary Sources

Robeson Community College Library's guide to English and literature resources

Primary Resources

Image Source:   University of Michigan Libraries (2018).

Primary Sources - General

A primary source is a document or physical object written or created during a time period of study and provides an insider view of the time period, event, person, and/or idea.


  • diaries
  • speeches
  • manuscripts
  • letters
  • interviews
  • news film footage
  • official records
  • creative writing (poetry, plays, novels, etc.)
  • artwork (photographs, paintings, music, architecture, etc.)
  • raw data and statistics
  • documents describing original scientific research


Primary v. Secondary Sources | Hartness Library

Primary & Secondary Sources - Sciences

Primary Sources for Science - documents (sometimes journal articles) that provide a full description of original research or data

Secondary Sources for Science - documents that comment on or analyze original scientific research or data
  • conference papers
  • correspondence
  • dissertations/theses
  • diaries
  • interviews
  • lab notebooks
  • notes
  • patents
  • proceedings
  • studies or surveys
  • technical reports
  • articles (in journals or newspapers)
  • biographies
  • commentaries
  • criticism and interpretation (books or articles)
  • dictionaries
  • directories
  • encyclopedias
  • government policy
  • handbooks
  • law and legislation
  • monographs
  • public opinion
  • reviews
  • social policy
  • tables
  • textbooks