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FYS 110

Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary sources are first-hand, original documents that are closest to the source material. In historical research, primary documents are examined and pieced together to form conclusions about historical events. Primary documents include newspaper articles (from the time of the historical event), diaries, autobiographies, photographs, or any other source of information that was created at the time being studied.

Secondary sources are written after a historical event, and often reference primary sources. They may cover the same topic as a primary source, but include a layer of commentary, interpretation, and analysis. Secondary sources may provide a more balanced treatment of historical events since they can take into account varying points of view. Secondary sources include articles written for scholarly or popular publications, books, and films.

When you research in the field of history, it is important to use both primary and secondary sources.

Resources for primary sources

Resources for Secondary Sources

Sample Chicago Style Citations

Sample Journal Citations:
1. Frank P. Whitney, "The Six-Year High School in Cleveland," School Review 37, no.4 (April 1929): 268,

B: Whitney, Frank P. "The Six-Year High School in Cleveland." School Review 37, no. 4 (April 1929): 267-271.


Sample Book Citation:
N: 1. Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End (London: Profile Books, 2014), 79-80.

B: Gawande, Atul. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. London: Profile Books, 2014.


Shortened form (for subsequent references to the same resource in your footnotes):
1. Samuel A. Morley, Poverty and Inequality in Latin America: The Impact of Adjustment and Recovery (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1995), 24-25.
2. Regina M. Schwartz, "Nationals and Nationalism: Adultery in the House of David," Critical Inquiry 19, no. 1 (1992): 131-32.
3. Ernest Kaiser, "The Literature of Harlem," In Harlem: A Community in Transition, ed. J.H. Clarke (New York: Citadel Press, 1964). 
4. Morley, Poverty and Inequality, 43
5. Schwartz, "Nationals and Nationalism," 138.
6. Kaiser, "Literature of Harlem," 189-90.


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