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HIST 203: Canada Since 1867

Research guide for HIST 203 (Winter 2024)

Status: About Primary and Secondary Sources and Background Information

Primary or Secondary

Historians use two principal kinds of materials: primary sources and secondary sources. 


Primary sources:

Primary sources are materials that serve as original evidence documenting a time period, an event, a work, people, or ideas. Examples include: newspaper articles, government documents, diaries, works of literature, photographs, oral histories, and more.


Secondary sources:

Secondary sources are information sources that provide interpretationanalysis, or commentary based on primary sources in order to provide understanding of a topic. For history, the two most common types of primary sources are scholarly books (monographs) and peer-reviewed articles. 


Background information:

Another type of source, sometimes called a tertiary source, is background information. Background information like encyclopedia articles can help you understand the context of a subject, but they are not typically materials to base your research papers on.

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