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HIST 143 - Gunderson - Fall 2023: Primary vs Secondary

Research guide for HIST 143: History of the United States

What is a Primary Source?

  • Primary sources are original materials that provide direct evidence concerning a topic or event -- firsthand records created by people who actually participated in an event, or remembered an event and reported on the event and their reactions to it.
  • Primary sources can be created at the time when the event occurred (e.g. diaries, speeches, letters and newspaper articles) or years later (such as autobiographies, memoirs and oral history interviews).

Favorite Primary Source Web Sites

College Archives

Did You Know?

The library collects and maintains the Rio Hondo College Archives. The Archives is where you will find original material published or created by the College.

  • RHC Archives Photograph Collection
  • RHC Scrapbooks
  • El Paisano
  • Annual Reports

.....and much more!

What is an Archives?

An archives is a place where people can go to gather firsthand facts, data, and evidence from letters, reports, notes, memos, photographs, and other primary sources.


What is a Secondary Source?

  • Secondary sources were created by someone who did not experience firsthand or participate in the event.
  • A secondary source may interpret, analyze, or summarize information from primary sources or other secondary sources.  Biographies, journal articles, and monographs (books) are examples of secondary sources.  
  • There are also tertiary sources, which further compile or summarize a topic.  Examples of tertiary sources are textbooks and encyclopedia entries.

These definitions are guidelines, but in reality, sources may exhibit several characteristics or may vary by context.