What is a secondary source?
The National History Day Contest Rule Book defines a secondary source as "a source by an author who was not an eyewitness or a participant in the historical event or period. Secondary sources are interpretations of primary sources, research, and study. Secondary sources provide context for a historical event."
Historians read - and write - secondary sources. A book written in 2018 about child labor in 1918 is a secondary source, even though it may include historic photographs. Reading that book as part of your research might help you understand the significance of primary sources.
But remember, the authors of secondary sources might have different opinions or interpretations. Historians use multiple secondary sources to gain a broad understanding of a topic or time period.
Examples of secondary sources include, but are not limited to:
- Documentaries (even when they include historic photographs)
- Textbooks (in print or online)
- Scholarly articles (even when they include information from diaries)
- Websites about a topic
- Encyclopedias, including Wikipedia
- Interviews with scholars
- Books about the topic
- Museum exhibits (even when they include artifacts)
- Modern maps of historic events