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ETHN 494: Native American Women and Indigenous Feminisms

This guide is designed to help you construct a biographical sketch of an Indigenous historical figure.

Primary and Secondary Sources

When working on this assignment, you are likely to encounter both primary and secondary sources. It's important to understand this distinction so that you can contextualize your sources when working on your paper. Primary and secondary sources offer different value and perspectives to your research. Ideally, having a balance of both kinds of sources can help give you a more complete picture of your historical figure.

What are primary sources?

Definition: Primary sources are original materials on which other research is based. They are from the time period involved and have not been filtered through interpretation or evaluation. They present original thinking, report a discovery, or share new information.

Note: The definition of a primary source may vary depending upon the discipline or context.

Examples of primary sources that you might encounter while working on this assignment:

  • ​Interview
  • ​Journal or diary entry
  • Archival material
  • ​Website
  • Social media page
  • Image / Photograph
  • Speech
  • Newspaper article from the time period
  • Work of art, architecture, literature, and music (e.g., paintings, sculptures, musical scores, buildings, novels, poems)


What are secondary sources?

Definition: Secondary sources are accounts or analyses written after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. They are interpretations and evaluations of primary sources. Secondary sources are not evidence, but rather commentary on and discussion of evidence. 

Note: The definition of a secondary source may vary depending upon the discipline or context.

Examples of secondary sources you might encounter for this assignment:

  • Scholarly journal article examining the life and/or legacy of the historical figure
  • Book or chapter in a book written about the historical figure or issues that they raised
  • Biography of the historical figure
  • Documentary film discussing the historical figure