Primary & secondary sources
Primary sources are first-hand accounts created by people who witnessed the events they've recorded. Primary sources can include documents, illustrations, photographs, maps, music, audio recordings, etc.
The Batman Treaty, which was held up as proof that John Batman 'purchased' the land around Melbourne in 1835, is an example of primary source material.
Using primary sources in your work not only adds credibility to your argument, but it demonstrates that you are an expert researcher.
Secondary sources interpret and comment on primary sources. Primary sources are used by a wide range of people – writers, academics, students, artists and others – as part of their work. When secondary sources are created, they can potentially provide a different interpretation or alter the significance of the relevant primary source.
A history textbook you use in class is an example of a secondary source.
It can be hard to know which secondary source to trust. If you're not sure:
- re-read the original and make up your own mind
- look for the most current secondary source
- find out about the creator of the secondary source - do you trust them?
- look at several other secondary sources to get an overview of what people think.