What is the difference between primary and secondary sources and when should they be used?

Primary sources are written by those who experienced the topic in question first hand. They come in a variety of different formats including but not limited to journal entries, letters, recorded interviews, newspaper articles, maps, photographs and so on.

Secondary sources include writing that has been done about an event, often included is an analysis of primary sources. These include journal articles, books, lectures, and so on.

When writing an academic essay, it is crucial to understand what has already been written about the subject whether you agree or disagree with what has been said. As you begin writing a historical research paper you must include a Historiography, or a synopsis of the other work done on your topic (secondary sources), highlighting the ideas presented. 

Throughout your essay when highlighting a certain area or trying to make a specific point about an event you can use primary sources to assist your argument. 

Mary B. GCSE History tutor, IB History tutor, A Level History tutor, ...

1 month ago

Answered by Mary, an A Level History tutor with MyTutor

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist


PremiumIsabelle A. GCSE English Literature tutor, A Level English Literature...
View profile
£24 /hr

Isabelle A.

Degree: Combined Honours in Arts (English Literature, History and Spanish) (Bachelors) - Durham University

Subjects offered: History, Spanish+ 2 more

Extended Project Qualification
English Literature

“Hi, I’m Isabelle. About Me I’m a second-year student at Durham University studying modules in English, History and, in my first year, Spanish, for my Combined Honours in Arts degree. I’ve previously tutored A-Level English Literature...”

Charlotte F. GCSE English Literature tutor, A Level English Literatur...
View profile
£20 /hr

Charlotte F.

Degree: BA Joint Hons English and History (Bachelors) - Nottingham University

Subjects offered: History, German+ 4 more

English Literature
-Personal Statements-

“Hello!I'm Charlotte, a 3rd year English and History undergraduate at the University of Nottingham. When I'm not writing essays I like to spend time singing with various musical societies, and watching back-to-back Disney films or ent...”

Hannah W. A Level Biology tutor, A Level Chemistry tutor, A Level His...
View profile
£22 /hr

Hannah W.

Degree: Biology (Bachelors) - Bristol University

Subjects offered: History, Music+ 5 more

English Literature
English Language

“Hi I'm Hannah and I am a Biology student at Bristol University. I have always loved the sciences, especially Biology and Chemistry but I am also passionate aboutcreative subjects such as Music and English.  I completely understand how...”

About the author

Mary B. GCSE History tutor, IB History tutor, A Level History tutor, ...
View profile
£20 /hr

Mary B.

Degree: History (Masters) - Manchester University

Subjects offered: History, Maths+ 1 more


“Top tutor from the renowned Russell university group, ready to help you improve your grades.”

MyTutor guarantee

You may also like...

Posts by Mary

Using Pythagoras Theorem find the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle where a=7 cm and b=11 cm. Round to the nearest tenth

Using Trigonometric Identities prove that [(tan^2x)(cosecx)]/sinx=sec^2x

What is the difference between primary and secondary sources and when should they be used?

Other A Level History questions

How do I structure my paragraphs in my essays?

What motivations informed US foreign policy during the Cold War?

How do I analyse a historical source?

How can I dissect a written source in exam conditions?

View A Level History tutors


We use cookies to improve our service. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss