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HIST 102 - History of the United States Since 1865 - Van Valkenburg

This guide will help you plan and complete your research paper for Ms. Van Valkenburg's class.

Types of sources

Confused about types of sources?

This video uses humor and exaggeration to teach the difference between popular, substantive, and scholarly sources.

Primary & Secondary Information

For research projects you will be using two basic types of information: Primary and Secondary. Your instructor will usually tell you what types of information he or she expects you to use for your research. What's the difference between these types?

Primary (Think of this as Firsthand):

Primary information is comprised of original materials that were created first hand. This type of information is from the time period involved and has not been filtered through interpretation.

Examples are:

  • Original Research (reported in journals & dissertations)
  • Diaries
  • Interviews (legal proceedings, personal, telephone, email)
  • Letters
  • Original Documents (i.e. birth certificate or a trial transcript)
  • Patents
  • Photographs
  • Proceedings of Meetings, Conferences and Symposia
  • Survey Research (such as market surveys and public opinion polls)
  • Works of Literature

For more information and help with finding Primary Sources, check out our Find Primary Sources research guide.


secondary sourcesSecondary (Think of this as Second-Hand):

Secondary information is made up of accounts written after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. Therefore, secondary information interprets and evaluates primary information. Examples are:

  • Analysis & Interpretations of Original Research (reported in magazines)
  • Biographies
  • Books
  • Commentaries
  • Dissertations
  • Indexes, Abstracts, Bibliographies (used to locate primary & secondary sources)
  • Journal Articles


You'll use the MJC Library Catalog, library databases, and the Web to find secondary sources.

Scholarly, Substantive, and Popular Sources