Primary vs Secondary Sources

Primary vs Secondary Sources
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MLK's I Have a Dream Speech

Primary and Secondary Sources

Lesson Plans by Matt Campbell

For thousands of years, Historians have relied on a series of methods to uncover the past that rely on primary sources. As students begin or continue to learn history, it is vital for them to have a rich understanding of how and where to get their information. Primary and secondary sources allow students and historians to take a look into the past or explore how past historical events and figures have been perceived. In order to make authentic and meaningful connections to the past, students must use primary sources to get a first-hand account of the people, events, conflicts, ideas, and themes that have occurred in the past.

Primary and Secondary Sources

Storyboard Description

Primary vs Secondary Sources examples and definition

Storyboard Text

  • Date of Creation
  • Primary Sources
  • I was present at the firing. I heard one of the Guns rattle. I turned about and lookd and heard the officer who stood on the right in a line with the Soldiers give the word fire twice. I looked the Officer in the face when he gave the word and saw his mouth. -
  • Date of Creation
  • Secondary Sources
  • A primary source document is a document or artifact that was created by someone who was at the event they wrote or spoke about. Historians rely on these eyewitness accounts to build their ever-growing library of history.
  • Strengths of Using A Primary Source
  • Source: Daniel Calif, an eyewitness to the "Boston Massacre"
  • A secondary source document is a document or artifact that was created after an event occurred by someone who did not witness the event.
  • Strengths of Using A Secondary Source
  • Source: Paul Revere, Boston Silversmith NOT present at the "Boston Massacre"
  • Emotional
  • Unique Perspective
  • Authentic
  • Personal
  • Primary sources are a crucial element of understanding history. A primary source can allow a moment in history to become an authentic personal experience for the reader. Primary sources allow historians to see, hear, and read about individual experiences and feelings in a way that a summary of an event can't quite accomplish.
  • Drawbacks/Negatives of Using A Primary Source
  • Eyewitness Account Only Saw 10 Minutes of a 50-Minute Event
  • A secondary source incorporates multiple perspectives into an account which hopefully eliminates biased viewpoints. A secondary source is also beneficial because it allows the author more time to study the event before finalizing a document about it. The additional time to study the event results in a more accurate and complete version of the historical event.
  • Drawbacks/Negatives of Using a Secondary Source
  • The True History of The Boston Massacre
  • A primary source may have certain drawbacks for historians. The source they are using may not be objective enough or contain certain biases. A primary source may be not contain complete or accurate details of an event in question.
  • Although a secondary source can be a helpful piece of information for historians, there can be extreme biases or inaccuracies in the information it presents. A secondary source is created from primary sources and there is a possibility that misleading or biased primary sources can create just as inaccurate secondary sources.
  • Document A
  • Document B
  • Document C
  • Document D
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