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UMW Libraries
Simpson Library | Special Collections

Research Skills for First-Year Seminars (FSEMs): ⭐ Primary / Secondary / Reference Sources


⭐ This page is required for all FSEM students ⭐

Primary / Secondary / Reference

Primary Sources: Original documents or recordings created at the same time as the event being researched. They are first-hand observations, contemporary accounts of events, and/or viewpoints of the time. They present original thinking, report a discovery, or share new information.

Secondary Sources: Works that analyze, assess, or interpret the historical event, scientific data, or piece of literature. They use primary sources as their evidence. They provide interpretation of information, as well as offer reviews or critiques.

Reference Sources: Collections of background information, such as encyclopedias, handbooks, dictionaries, and chronologies. They provide condensed background information on a topic. Use this background information to give you ideas and to help you find primary and secondary sources that you can include in your final paper. Do not directly cite these sources in your paper.