Historical Sources tell us something about history. There are two main types of historical sources: primary and secondary sources.
A primary source comes from the past. It is an original object or document; first-hand information. Primary source is material written or produced in the time period that you may be investigating. Primary sources allow the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during an historical event or time period.
If I tell you something I am the primary source.
Secondary sources are interpretations and evaluations of primary sources. They are NOT evidence but rather commentary on and discussion of evidence. Consider secondary sources as second-hand information.
If you tell someone else what I told you, you are the secondary source.
Secondary sources can be articles in newspapers, magazines, books or articles found that evaluate or criticize someone else's original research.
For example: A Roman coin made by the Romans is a Primary Source, but a drawing of a Roman coin made in 2003 would be a Secondary Source.
Questions to ask of a source:
Who? For example: Who made it? Who used it? Who is in the picture? Whose opinion does it show?
Where? For example: Where is it? Where was it made? Where was it Used?
What? For example: What is it? What is it for? What does it say? What was it used for? What does it show?
Example #1 Roman Coins
Roman coins made by the Romans in AD 45
Who made it? The Romans in AD 45
Who used it? The Romans
Who is in the picture? The head on the coins show who was emperor.
Example #2 Painting
Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci in 1506
Where is it? It is located in the Louvre art gallery, Paris.
Where was it? It was in Italy. It is now in the Louvre in Paris.
Where was it made? It was made in Italy by Leonardo da Vinci.
Where was it used? It was used to hang on a wall for decoration.
Example #3 Book about the Tudors
Book About the Tudors in 1999
What is it? A book about the Tudors.
What is it for? It is for people to read/learn about the Tudors.
What was it used for? It is still being used.
What does it show? It shows people are interested in the Tudors.
Example 4: The Magna Carta
Part of original Magna Carta 1215
When was it made? It was made in 1215.
When was it used? It was used in 1215 to force King John to grant concessions to the barons.
When does it show? It shows the feelings of the barons in 1215.
Example #5: A mug made in 2015
How was it made? It was made in a factory--check the bottom for a stamp indicating details of the factory or potter.
How was it used? It was/is used for people to drink hot beverages from.
How has it survived? It has survived because it was made not that long ago.
Example #6: A poster of a Van Gogh painting made in 2006
Poster of 2006 Gogh Painting
Why was it made? Because people like Van Gogh paintings and because there is only one original painting; posters like this enable many people to see art.
Why has it survived? It has survived because it isn't too terribly old and has been well preserved.