Primary vs. Secondary Sources
• Primary sources are original materials.
• Primary sources (also called original source or
evidence) are artifacts, documents, recordings, or
other sources of information that were created at the
time under study. However, primary sources can
include memoirs, autobiographies and oral histories
• Secondary sources, are sources which cite, comment
on, or build upon primary sources. Generally, accounts
written after the fact are secondary. They interpret
and analyze primary sources.
University of Illinois
• In April 1983, the West German
news magazine Stern published
excerpts from what purported
to be the diaries of Adolf
Hitler, known as the Hitler
• In 1986, Hugh Trevor-Roper
"authenticated" the Hitler
diaries, which were later
proved to be forgeries.
• Hugh Redwald Trevor-Roper
(15 January 1914 – 27 January
2003) was an English historian
of early modern Britain and
Nazi Germany and Regius
Professor of Modern History at
Examples of Primary Sources
• Original Documents – diaries, speeches,
manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film
footage, autobiographies, official records,
photographs, maps, postcards, government
• Creative Works – poetry, drama, art, novels,
music, plays, paintings, drawings, sculptures
• Relics or Artifacts – furniture, clothing,
Examples of Primary Sources
• The Diary of Anne Frank
Ken Burns – The Civil War
Ken Burns on PBS – Tell a Story
Examples of Secondary Sources
• Publications: Textbooks, magazine articles,
histories, criticisms, commentaries,
• Book, Art and Theatre reviews
• Newspaper articles that interpret
RUSA – Reference and User Services
APPARTS - An acronym of prompts
for the analysis of primary sources
• AUTHOR Who created the source? What do you know about the
author? What is the author’s point of view?
• PLACE AND TIME Where and when was the source produced? How
might this affect the meaning of the source?
• PRIOR KNOWLEDGE Beyond information about the author and the
context of its creation, what do you know that would help you
further understand the primary source? For example, do you
recognize any symbols and recall what they represent?
• AUDIENCE For whom was the source created and how might this
affect the reliability of the source?
• REASON Why was this source created at the time it was produced?
• THE MAIN IDEA What point is the source trying to convey?
• SIGNIFICANCE Why is this source important? What inferences can
you draw from this document? Ask yourself, “So what?” in relation
to the question asked.
TACOS – Elementary/Middle
• Time: When was this document created? I always remind
them that they are not looking for the setting of the
cartoon, rather when do they think the author created it?
What clues in the picture can help you figure it out?
• Action: What is going on in the picture? What are people
• Caption: Write down all the words or text that you see in
the picture (captions, thought bubbles, labels, etc.)
• Objects: List everything that is visible in the picture. Watch
out – the kids can get very specific on this one!
• Summary/So what?: What does this have to do with real
life? What does this mean? Why is this important?
• Another Pre-AP strategy is to practice writing thesis statements
• It’s called “TAG”. It’s used it to learn how to answer essay or short
answer questions correctly. Each answer must have two sentences!!
• (T)urn the question into a statement
• (A)nswer the question
• (G)ive more details
• Here’s an example: What is a peninsula?
• TAGged answer: A peninsula is a landmass nearly surrounded by
water. Greece is an example of a peninsula.
• Sometimes we will do TAG3 (Call it TAG cubed). Instead of just
writing one extra detail, they have to write three.
Library of Congress
Civil War Photographs – Matthew
The National Archives
The New York Public Library
The History Guide