A primary source is a first-hand account written by an individual who witnessed or experienced an event. Primary sources allow you to examine the evidence first-hand without the opinions, analysis, and interpretations of others. Primary sources are original documents, such as: diaries, letters, memoirs, speeches, autobiographies, certificates or legal documents and interviews. They may also include published articles in newspapers or magazines, as long as they are written soon after the event and are not historical or analytical accounts.
Audio, video and photographs may also be primary sources.
Artefacts such as buildings, pottery, furniture etc can also be primary sources of information in a particular field as they tell us something about their period.
A secondary source is a second-hand account or observation at least one step removed from the event. Secondary sources interpret, offer commentary, analyse and draw conclusions about the events described, or shown, in primary sources. Secondary sources make the information more accessible to others by bringing together information and interpreting material from a variety of primary sources. The most common secondary sources are published works -books, encyclopaedias and newspaper and journal articles.
Note: Information found on the internet can be either a primary source or a secondary source depending on what it is and how it was created.
The State Library of Victoria, via their site Ergo, has material on:
Essay Writing Skills
Click on the Ergo icon.