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Writing Annotated Bibliographies: Primary vs Secondary Sources

This guide will provide information on how to write an annotated bibliography.

Primary Sources

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Primary Sources are immediate, first-hand accounts of a topic, from people who had a direct connection with it. Primary sources can include:

Texts of laws and other original documents.

Newspaper reports, by reporters who witnessed an event or who quote people who did.

Speeches, diaries, letters and interviews - what the people involved said or wrote.

Original research.

Datasets, survey data, such as census or economic statistics.

Photographs, video, or audio that capture an event.

Secondary Sources

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Secondary Sources are one step removed from primary sources, though they often quote or otherwise use primary sources. They can cover the same topic, but add a layer of interpretation and analysis. Secondary sources can include:

Most books about a topic.

Analysis or interpretation of data.

Scholarly or other articles about a topic, especially by people not directly involved.

Documentaries (though they often include photos or video portions that can be considered primary sources).

Understanding the difference between Primary and Secondary Sources