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Getting Started with Research: Primary and Secondary Sources

Three Types of Sources

In general, there are three types of resources or sources of information: primary, secondary, and tertiary.  It is important to understand these types and to know what type is appropriate for your coursework prior to searching for information.

  1. Primary sources are original materials on which other research is based, including:
    • original written works – poems, diaries, court records, interviews, surveys, and original research/fieldwork, and
    • research published in scholarly/academic journals (conducted by the author of the paper)
  2. Secondary sources are those that describe or analyze primary sources, including:
    • reference materials – dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, and
    • books and articles that interpret, review, or sythesize original research/fieldwork.
  3. Tertiary sources are those used to organize and locate secondary and primary sources.
    • Indexes – provide citations that fully identify a work with information such as author, titles of a book, artile, and/or journal, publisher and publication date, volume and issue number and page numbers.
    • Abstracts – summarize the primary or secondary sources,
    • Databases – are online indexes that usually include abstracts for each primary or secondary resource, and may also include a digital copy of the resource.

(adapted from definitions posted by Mary Woodley, CSUN Oviatt Library)

The Black Freedom Struggle in the United States

The Black Freedom Struggle website contains select primary source documents related to critical people and events in African American history. By centering on the experiences and perspectives of African Americans, this collection imbues the study of Black history with a deeper understanding of the humanity of people who have pursued the quest for freedom, and the significance of movements like Black Lives Matter.  

This website contains approximately 1,600 documents focused on six different phases of Black Freedom:

  1. Slavery and the Abolitionist Movement (1790-1860)
  2. The Civil War and the Reconstruction Era (1861-1877)
  3. Jim Crow Era from 1878 to the Great Depression (1878-1932)
  4. The New Deal and World War II (1933-1945)
  5. The Civil Rights and Black Power Movements (1946-1975)
  6. The Contemporary Era (1976-2000)

Primary vs. Secondary Sources (3:10)

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