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Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 11070

Do you trust news you heard from someone who heard it from someone who . . . You get the idea. Primary sources from witnesses provide the best evidence, and you will learn from football and Atari!


History, Social Studies

Social Studies
learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


What do the greatest play in NFL history, video games, and your family have in common?

football, video games, and family

They have each left some form of evidence that can be used to understand a particular point in time. Let's explore the concept of evidence and apply it to better understand the past!

How do we know what really happened at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, or the Haymarket Affair, or any other historical event?

How do you know if your friend really visited Disneyworld or not?

We look for evidence. In the study of history, there are two major kinds of evidence: primary and secondary.

How can we tell the difference?

Print the Primary vs Secondary Sources organizational grid found in Downloadable Resources in the right-hand sidebar.

Read the article called, Distinguish Between Primary and Secondary Sources, retrieved from UC Santa Cruz University Library. As you read, record important observations on the Source Type Organizer (Downloadable Resources). You will use the information you find to examine and distinguish sources on your own.


  • What kinds of evidence do you find around you, in your home or community?
  • According to your understanding, are they primary sources or secondary sources?
  • What do those pieces of evidence tell you about the past?
  • Share and discuss your thoughts with a parent or teacher.

When you are finished with your discussion, move on to the Got It? section to explore some sources about recent American history.

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