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MLA Style 9th edition: Primary Sources vs. Secondary Sources

This guide covers the basics of MLA Style writing, formatting, and citing.

Primary Sources

Primary Sources consist of first-hand accounts of a topic from people who had a direct connection to it. Some examples of primary sources are:

Texts of law and other original documents

Datasets, survey data such as census statistics

Speeches, diaries, letters, interviews, and memoirs (Direct information stated or written from those involved.)

Newspaper reports by reports who witnessed an event and/or quote people who did.

Original research

Photographs, videos, or audios that capture a specific event.

Examples of Primary Sources








Examples of Secondary Sources




Review of a play

Article critiquing a piece of art

Book about a specific subject

Treatise on a particular genre of poetry

Essay on a treaty

Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources are one step removed from primary sources although they can quote or otherwise use primary sources. Secondary sources cover the same topic but add a layer of interpretation and analysis. Secondary sources can include:

Analysis or interpretation of data.

Most books about a topic.

Documentaries (though they often include photographic or video portions often considered as primary sources).

Scholarly or other articles about a topic by people not directly involved.