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Multicultural America (WGS 150): Identify

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Learning Outcomes

  1. Define primary sources.
  2. Define secondary sources
  3. Make distinctions between the two types of sources in ambigious cases.

Key terms

Primary Source:
A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event.

Secondary Source:
A secondary sources, in contrast to a primary source, is an interpretation – often generated by scholars – that is based upon the examination of multiple primary sources.

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Video created by the Ellen Clarke Bertrand Library at Bucknell University.

Examples of Primary Sources

A Document or Manuscript is a written or printed work such as the Declaration of Independence or a grocery list written in 1933. Almost all the collections in the UWM Archives are comprised of documents or manuscripts.

Photographs are another common format. To locate them, find the catalog records of those particular collections which include photographs: use Search@UW and type the term Photographs in the search box.  To narrow the results, scroll down in the left-hand column and choose "Location" as MIL Archives.

Sound recordings will be on a variety of mediums (LP, digital file, cassette tape) and provide rich audio resources. To locate them, use Search@UW and type the term Sound recording in the search box.  To narrow the results, scroll down in the left-hand column and choose "Location" as MIL Archives.

Video recordings are rich in visual and audio source material. To locate them, use Search@UW and type the term Video recording in the search box.  To narrow the results, scroll down in the left-hand column and choose "Location" as MIL Archives.

Oral histories are recordings of an individual's personal recollections of the past. They are sometimes transcribed on paper, and sometimes the complete audio recording is available. To locate them, use Search@UW and type the term Oral histories in the search box.  To narrow the results, scroll down in the left-hand column and choose "Location" as MIL Archives.

Minutes are the official recordings of meetings. They are sometimes handwritten, but most often found typed, printed or published. To locate them, use Search@UW and type the term Minutes in the search box.  To narrow the results, scroll down in the left-hand column and choose "Location" as MIL Archives.

Diaries are first-person accounts, traditionally written on paper, but increasingly found on other mediums .To locate them, use Search@UW and type the term Diaries in the search box.  To narrow the results, scroll down in the left-hand column and choose "Location" as MIL Archives.

Scrapbooks are compilations of a variety of materials, such as photos, letters, news clippings, and organics (flowers, locks of hair). To locate them, use Search@UW and type the term Scrapbooks in the search box.  To narrow the results, scroll down in the left-hand column and choose "Location" as MIL Archives.es. 

Quiz yourself

Is this photograph a:
Primary source: 12 votes (48%)
Secondary source: 13 votes (52%)
Total Votes: 25