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A Step-by-Step Guide to Primary Source Analysis

May 25, 2017 by Kiesha Frue

Primary source analysis is exactly what it sounds like: an analysis of a primary source.

You probably heard the term “primary source” often in school. It’s referred to as a first-hand experience or account of an event, person, or object.

An audio recording of Martin Luther King Jr’s speech where he’s famously quoted saying “I have a dream” is a first-hand account. It’s his words recorded from his mouth . Someone else who quotes it would be a secondary source.

Primary sources are critical to research . It’s beneficial to understand how to do primary source analysis and justify the source correctly.

1. Start simple

Begin by answering a few basic questions.

What type of source is it? Primary sources can be letters, diary entries, data entries, interviews, or even photographs.

Next, who created it? Self-explanatory: put down the name of the author or person who provided the primary source.

When was it created? Again, quite simple. Write down the date the primary source was created. It may be difficult to know the exact date depending on the source.

2. The context

What led the author to develop this primary source? It might be a significant event in history. Or it could be a series of circumstances. It could even be because of a coincidence. Whichever the reason write it down.

Think of it like this: the person created the content because X event was taking place and he needed to contact Y with Z information.

3. Who is it for?

You may have already done so in the previous step, making this part easier to do. But it’s relatively straightforward. Who was the piece created for?

Letters are often addressed to one person. Diary entries are often directed to no one in particular. If it’s not directly obvious, consider who it could’ve been for.

4. A quick summary

Now address what the key points of the source were.

If it’s a longer entry, try to pick out critical pieces of information that sum up the piece. Try to answer what someone, who knows nothing about the source, needs to know to understand its significance.

Keep that in mind while you dissect the article.

5. Reliability

A primary source must be reliable. But it’s not enough to say that it is.

State how it is reliable (what makes it a primary source) and then explain why it’s significant. Such as: It’s a reliable source as it was created by X during a critical time and has been verified by Y group. It’s significant because…

Consider how it helps to understand the topic at hand. If it doesn’t address anything key within the topic, it may be reliable but not significant. If this is the case, rethink the primary source.

The significance part can be determined from step 3.

6. Question everything

While you answer the above questions, stop and think. Does any of it not make sense?

This can help with reflection or bring an extra level of research to the analysis. Write down your thoughts as you read through the primary source as well. They may come in handy later.

At this point, the primary source analysis has completed. It can be as extensive as you deem fit. So long as you have followed the above steps and answered them to prove reliability and significance, your work here is done.

Each step should be repeated for every additional primary source you have.

Image: Baimieng/ Shutterstock.com

How to Analyze a Primary Source

When you analyze a primary source, you are undertaking the most important job of the historian. There is no better way to understand events in the past than by examining the sources — whether journals, newspaper articles, letters, court case records, novels, artworks, music or autobiographies — that people from that period left behind.

Each historian, including you, will approach a source with a different set of experiences and skills, and will therefore interpret the document differently. Remember that there is no one right interpretation. However, if you do not do a careful and thorough job, you might arrive at a wrong interpretation.

In order to analyze a primary source you need information about two things: the document itself, and the era from which it comes. You can base your information about the time period on the readings you do in class and on lectures. On your own you need to think about the document itself. The following questions may be helpful to you as you begin to analyze the sources:

  • Look at the physical nature of your source. This is particularly important and powerful if you are dealing with an original source (i.e., an actual old letter, rather than a transcribed and published version of the same letter). What can you learn from the form of the source? (Was it written on fancy paper in elegant handwriting, or on scrap-paper, scribbled in pencil?) What does this tell you?
  • Think about the purpose of the source. What was the author’s message or argument? What was he/she trying to get across? Is the message explicit, or are there implicit messages as well?
  • How does the author try to get the message across? What methods does he/she use?
  • What do you know about the author? Race, sex, class, occupation, religion, age, region, political beliefs? Does any of this matter? How?
  • Who constituted the intended audience? Was this source meant for one person’s eyes, or for the public? How does that affect the source?
  • What can a careful reading of the text (even if it is an object) tell you? How does the language work? What are the important metaphors or symbols? What can the author’s choice of words tell you? What about the silences — what does the author choose NOT to talk about?

Now you can evaluate the source as historical evidence.

  • Is it prescriptive — telling you what people thought should happen — or descriptive — telling you what people thought did happen?
  • Does it describe ideology and/or behavior?
  • Does it tell you about the beliefs/actions of the elite, or of “ordinary” people? From whose perspective?
  • What historical questions can you answer using this source? What are the benefits of using this kind of source?
  • What questions can this source NOT help you answer? What are the limitations of this type of source?
  • If we have read other historians’ interpretations of this source or sources like this one, how does your analysis fit with theirs? In your opinion, does this source support or challenge their argument?

Remember, you cannot address each and every one of these questions in your presentation or in your paper, and I wouldn’t want you to. You need to be selective.

– Molly Ladd-Taylor, Annette Igra, Rachel Seidman, and others

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  • Primary vs. Secondary Sources | Difference & Examples

Primary vs. Secondary Sources | Difference & Examples

Published on June 20, 2018 by Raimo Streefkerk . Revised on May 31, 2023.

When you do research, you have to gather information and evidence from a variety of sources.

Primary sources provide raw information and first-hand evidence. Examples include interview transcripts, statistical data, and works of art. Primary research gives you direct access to the subject of your research.

Secondary sources provide second-hand information and commentary from other researchers. Examples include journal articles, reviews, and academic books . Thus, secondary research describes, interprets, or synthesizes primary sources.

Primary sources are more credible as evidence, but good research uses both primary and secondary sources.

Table of contents

What is a primary source, what is a secondary source, primary and secondary source examples, how to tell if a source is primary or secondary, primary vs secondary sources: which is better, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about primary and secondary sources.

A primary source is anything that gives you direct evidence about the people, events, or phenomena that you are researching. Primary sources will usually be the main objects of your analysis.

If you are researching the past, you cannot directly access it yourself, so you need primary sources that were produced at the time by participants or witnesses (e.g. letters, photographs, newspapers ).

If you are researching something current, your primary sources can either be qualitative or quantitative data that you collect yourself (e.g. through interviews , surveys , experiments ) or sources produced by people directly involved in the topic (e.g. official documents or media texts).

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A secondary source is anything that describes, interprets, evaluates, or analyzes information from primary sources. Common examples include:

  • Books , articles and documentaries that synthesize information on a topic
  • Synopses and descriptions of artistic works
  • Encyclopedias and textbooks that summarize information and ideas
  • Reviews and essays that evaluate or interpret something

When you cite a secondary source, it’s usually not to analyze it directly. Instead, you’ll probably test its arguments against new evidence or use its ideas to help formulate your own.

Examples of sources that can be primary or secondary

A secondary source can become a primary source depending on your research question . If the person, context, or technique that produced the source is the main focus of your research, it becomes a primary source.

Documentaries

If you are researching the causes of World War II, a recent documentary about the war is a secondary source . But if you are researching the filmmaking techniques used in historical documentaries, the documentary is a primary source .

Reviews and essays

If your paper is about the novels of Toni Morrison, a magazine review of one of her novels is a secondary source . But if your paper is about the critical reception of Toni Morrison’s work, the review is a primary source .

Newspaper articles

If your aim is to analyze the government’s economic policy, a newspaper article about a new policy is a secondary source . But if your aim is to analyze media coverage of economic issues, the newspaper article is a primary source .

To determine if something can be used as a primary or secondary source in your research, there are some simple questions you can ask yourself:

  • Does this source come from someone directly involved in the events I’m studying (primary) or from another researcher (secondary)?
  • Am I interested in evaluating the source itself (primary) or only using it for background information (secondary)?
  • Does the source provide original information (primary) or does it comment upon information from other sources (secondary)?

Most research uses both primary and secondary sources. They complement each other to help you build a convincing argument. Primary sources are more credible as evidence, but secondary sources show how your work relates to existing research. Tertiary sources are often used in the first, exploratory stage of research.

What do you use primary sources for?

Primary sources are the foundation of original research. They allow you to:

  • Make new discoveries
  • Provide credible evidence for your arguments
  • Give authoritative information about your topic

If you don’t use any primary sources, your research may be considered unoriginal or unreliable.

What do you use secondary sources for?

Secondary sources are good for gaining a full overview of your topic and understanding how other researchers have approached it. They often synthesize a large number of primary sources that would be difficult and time-consuming to gather by yourself. They allow you to:

  • Gain background information on the topic
  • Support or contrast your arguments with other researchers’ ideas
  • Gather information from primary sources that you can’t access directly (e.g. private letters or physical documents located elsewhere)

When you conduct a literature review or meta analysis, you can consult secondary sources to gain a thorough overview of your topic. If you want to mention a paper or study that you find cited in a secondary source, seek out the original source and cite it directly.

Remember that all primary and secondary sources must be cited to avoid plagiarism . You can use Scribbr’s free citation generator to do so!

If you want to know more about ChatGPT, AI tools , citation , and plagiarism , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • ChatGPT vs human editor
  • ChatGPT citations
  • Is ChatGPT trustworthy?
  • Using ChatGPT for your studies
  • What is ChatGPT?
  • Chicago style
  • Paraphrasing

 Plagiarism

  • Types of plagiarism
  • Self-plagiarism
  • Avoiding plagiarism
  • Academic integrity
  • Consequences of plagiarism
  • Common knowledge

Common examples of primary sources include interview transcripts , photographs, novels, paintings, films, historical documents, and official statistics.

Anything you directly analyze or use as first-hand evidence can be a primary source, including qualitative or quantitative data that you collected yourself.

Common examples of secondary sources include academic books, journal articles , reviews, essays , and textbooks.

Anything that summarizes, evaluates or interprets primary sources can be a secondary source. If a source gives you an overview of background information or presents another researcher’s ideas on your topic, it is probably a secondary source.

To determine if a source is primary or secondary, ask yourself:

  • Was the source created by someone directly involved in the events you’re studying (primary), or by another researcher (secondary)?
  • Does the source provide original information (primary), or does it summarize information from other sources (secondary)?
  • Are you directly analyzing the source itself (primary), or only using it for background information (secondary)?

Some types of source are nearly always primary: works of art and literature, raw statistical data, official documents and records, and personal communications (e.g. letters, interviews ). If you use one of these in your research, it is probably a primary source.

Primary sources are often considered the most credible in terms of providing evidence for your argument, as they give you direct evidence of what you are researching. However, it’s up to you to ensure the information they provide is reliable and accurate.

Always make sure to properly cite your sources to avoid plagiarism .

A fictional movie is usually a primary source. A documentary can be either primary or secondary depending on the context.

If you are directly analyzing some aspect of the movie itself – for example, the cinematography, narrative techniques, or social context – the movie is a primary source.

If you use the movie for background information or analysis about your topic – for example, to learn about a historical event or a scientific discovery – the movie is a secondary source.

Whether it’s primary or secondary, always properly cite the movie in the citation style you are using. Learn how to create an MLA movie citation or an APA movie citation .

Articles in newspapers and magazines can be primary or secondary depending on the focus of your research.

In historical studies, old articles are used as primary sources that give direct evidence about the time period. In social and communication studies, articles are used as primary sources to analyze language and social relations (for example, by conducting content analysis or discourse analysis ).

If you are not analyzing the article itself, but only using it for background information or facts about your topic, then the article is a secondary source.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Streefkerk, R. (2023, May 31). Primary vs. Secondary Sources | Difference & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved February 22, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/working-with-sources/primary-and-secondary-sources/

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  • Single-Source Analysis

What It Is and Why It's Useful

Single-source essays tend to involve some level of analysis of one (main) source, and they tend to be shorter than long. Those parameters leave a lot of room for variation, but in general these kinds of assignments are moving beyond summary, don't have comparative analysis as their focus, and aren't drawing on a lot of research. They're staying focused on one source (or even a part of a source), and this can be a useful way to allow students themselves to focus on:

  • Elaborating on or digging into the complexities or confusing aspects of an argument
  • Applying theoretical models or interpretive skills that have been introduced in a course
  • Critiquing an argument's claim or its use of evidence
  • Identifying underlying assumptions in a source or its possible implications

All of these approaches are more complex than summary, which remains primarily descriptive and stops short of the normative moves a singe-source analysis might get into. Limiting these moves to a single source has two immediate pedagogical advantages: It means that students are using a more straightforward genre to provide evidence of their ability to engage analytically with a given source, rather than providing evidence that they can (also) navigate a more complex form (such as comparative analysis or a research essay); it also means that instructors can offer more targeted feedback when the goal is to measure student's mastery of content and/or elements such as thesis, evidence, or counterargument, rather than also measuring mastery of form per se. Put another way: Is your main objective for students to learn the form itself, or for them to use the form as a vehicle for learning other things?

Typical learning objectives for single-sources essays: formulate analytical questions and an arguable thesis, establish stakes of an argument, summarize sources accurately, choose evidence effectively, analyze evidence effectively, define key terms, organize argument logically, acknowledge and respond to counterargument, cite sources properly, and present ideas in clear prose.

Common types of single-sources essays and related types: literary analysis, rhetorical analysis, primary source analysis (in History), critical assessment of an argument, etc.

How to Teach It: Framing + Practice

A single-source analysis suddenly has a lot more moving parts than a standalone summary, but any of your students who've taken Expos (or the equivalent) will be familiar with the moves that make up a typical version of this genre of assignment.

In terms of framing what doing a single-source analysis will look like, it's of course ideal to start with the prompt itself and talk about the other kinds of lower-stakes writing that will scaffold up to it (See the " Formative Writing Assignments " page in this section"). What this scaffolded sequence looks like will vary with context, but for a single-source analysis it might build on reading assignments and class discussions that lead to a full draft through lower-stakes writing exercises, such as summary, thesis proposals, introductions or outlines, and sample body paragraphs (that allow for practice with topic sentences, introducing and citing evidence, and providing analysis). In terms of framing the purpose of single-source analysis, it can be helpful to draw on the reasons why it's useful (see above), both as an end-unto-itself and as a means to other, more complex genres (such as research essays).  

Because single-source analyses have more moving parts, it's important that students get practice with as many of the parts as possible—practice that's sequenced effectively and that allows each practice step itself clearly to be part of "writing the paper." One version of a class-by-class process for a single-source essay might look something like this (Formative writing exercises are in bolded italics , and you can find examples of all of them at the " Formative Writing Assignments " page):

  • In class:  Introduce prompt and analytical questions At home: Students read half of a text and come to class with analytical questions
  • In class: Workshop analytical questions , class discussion, introduce summary At home: Students finish text and come to class with analytical questions and a draft summary
  • In class: Workshop summary , class discussion, introduce thesis statements (as answers to analytical questions) At home: Students draft possible thesis statements (along with what the stakes of each one might be and what evidence from the source supports or complicates it)
  • In class: Workshop thesis statements and look at models of introductions and/or analytical paragraphs ; a review of citation practices in the style students are writing in At home: Students draft possible intro or essay outline
  • In class:  Workshop intros and outlines ; look at a model essay together with some focus on topic sentences or transitions and perhaps an element of prose style At home: Students work on full drafts of their essays.

This isn't a minimalist approach to a single-source assignment, nor is it a maximalist version either. What it's meant to show is that the process of a single-source analysis can be broken down into meaningful, manageable steps—and that it will typically take anywhere from 1+ to ~3 weeks, on average, to make it a learning experience that authentically measures students' progress in relation to the typical learning objectives for this genre of writing.

Sample Exercises and Links to Other Resources

  • Common Pitfalls
  • Advice on Timing
  • Try to steer students away from thinking of a proposed thesis as a commitment. Instead, help them see it as more of a hypothesis a) that has emerged out of readings and discussion and analytical questions, and b) that they'll now test through an experiment, namely, drafting. When students see drafting and revision as part of the process of inquiry—rather than as the before and after of inquiry—and are committed to acknowledging and adapting their claims to as much available evidence as possible, it makes writing assignments more scientific, more ethical, and more authentic. 
  • Make sure students have a sense of the kinds of evidence and analysis they should be engaging with in their essay. Should they be using certain kinds of evidence from the source or a certain number of examples?
  • As with other kinds of essays, be explicit about who the audience is. That is, should students assume the reader needs background summary and orientation of examples? Or should they dispense with that information because the imagined audience is presumed to be made up of "experts?"
  • Starting with analytical questions keeps the focus on trying to answer a question that isn't "one-sided," and that means that one's thesis will by definition be a claim that can be reasonably answered in more than one way—and that makes counterargument (and, with it, a less static relationship to one's thesis) something that's always an active part of the writing process
  • Remind students that writing is part of the process of inquiry, rather than the result or mechanical output.
  • Make "acknowledging and addressing counterargument" one of the required elements of the assignment (i.e., part of the rubric).
  • Many students, even after meeting their expository writing requirement, will have a greater comfort level with certain approaches to evidence and analysis as well as form. For example, you might see students focusing (without any mention of it in the prompt) on an author's rhetorical features or the effectiveness of an argument based on the popular ethos/logos/pathos model of teaching writing in secondary schools. And you might see rigid 5-paragraph approaches to structure. There's nothing inherently wrong with these approaches, of course—especially given their utility in the context of timed in-class writing or standardized testing/AP exams. The tip for this pitfall is this: know that you'll see a lot more of these unexpected (and perhaps undesired) approaches if you don't get out in front of them and make it clear to students what kinds of approaches are best suited to the current assignment—and why.
  • Prior to college writing, a lot of the academic writing your students will have done was for their day-in-day-out teachers and for anonymous readers of AP exams or various applications. Neither of those scenarios is the mental model of "audience" we're asking students to adopt for many of their writing assignments in college, where we're more often asking them to write for something more generalizable, e.g., peers or colleagues or something more public-facing. Being clear with students about who their imagined audience should be is a great way to help students avoid making assumptions about several aspects of their writing, e.g., how much background summary to include, whether the reader (= the grader) "knows" the "right" answer to the prompt, etc. In many cases, what we want students to do with analytical essays is teach the reader something, and it's easier for students to take on that role as writers when "audience" (and the kind of authority the audience has) is explicitly addressed in the prompt or in class.

What It Can Build Up To

Single-source analyses can build up to other kinds of writing in a number of ways. For example:

  • They can build toward subsequent single-source analyses of other (possibly more difficult) sources
  • They can scaffold up to comparative analysis, where multiple sources are being analyzed in relation to each other
  • In a course where students will take a "deep dive" into a source or topic for their capstone, they can allow students to "try on" a source or topic to see if it's indeed something they want to research more fully.
  • DIY Guides for Analytical Writing Assignments

For Teaching Fellows & Teaching Assistants

  • Types of Assignments
  • Unpacking the Elements of Writing Prompts
  • Formative Writing Assignments
  • Comparative Analysis
  • Research Essays
  • Multi-Modal or Creative Projects
  • Giving Feedback to Students

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Types of Outlines and Samples

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Alphanumeric Outlines

This is the most common type of outline and usually instantly recognizable to most people. The formatting follows these characters, in this order:

  • Roman Numerals
  • Capitalized Letters
  • Arabic Numerals
  • Lowercase Letters

If the outline needs to subdivide beyond these divisions, use Arabic numerals inside parentheses and then lowercase letters inside parentheses. Select the "Sample Outlines" PDF in the Media Box above to download the sample of this outline.

The sample PDF in the Media Box above is an example of an outline that a student might create before writing an essay. In order to organize her thoughts and make sure that she has not forgotten any key points that she wants to address, she creates the outline as a framework for her essay.

What is the assignment?

Your instructor asks the class to write an expository (explanatory) essay on the typical steps a high school student would follow in order to apply to college.

What is the purpose of this essay?

To explain the process for applying to college

Who is the intended audience for this essay?

High school students intending to apply to college and their parents

What is the essay's thesis statement?

When applying to college, a student follows a certain process which includes choosing the right schools and preparing the application materials.

Full Sentence Outlines

The full sentence outline format is essentially the same as the Alphanumeric outline. The main difference (as the title suggests) is that full sentences are required at each level of the outline. This outline is most often used when preparing a traditional essay. Select the "Sample Outlines" PDF in the Media Box above to download the sample of this outline.

Decimal Outlines

The decimal outline is similar in format to the alphanumeric outline. The added benefit is a system of decimal notation that clearly shows how every level of the outline relates to the larger whole. Select the "Sample Outlines" PDF in the Media Box above to download the sample of this outline.

Primary Sources Essay Writing Guide. Where to Find Good Essay Sources?

When working on a research topic, it’s essential to understand what was already said and written about it. A powerful tool, in this case, is a list of reliable sources.

In this article, we will go through the basics and details of working with essay literature sources. The main focus will be on primary sources, as they are on the first line of the academic sources hierarchy.

  • 🔑 What Do You Need to Know about Essay Sources
  • 🔢 Examples of Primary, Secondary, & Tertiary Sources
  • 🧱 Why Does Everyone Need Credible Sources?

5️⃣ Types of Primary Sources

  • ✍️ How to Write a Primary Source Essay
  • 🔎 Looking for Good Essay Sources? Check This

We will help you understand how to cite primary sources and write an excellent essay. Stay with us to find it out!

🔑 Essay Sources Explained

Once you’ve chosen the topic for your essay , you need to start thinking about writing it. A list of credible sources is what you are going to need in the first place.

So, we suggest you look into different types of academic sources existing out there!

6 Reasons to Make a List of Solid Sources in Your Essay

An essay is not exactly an academic genre. It’s not so strict-ruled and rigid. Still, the use of reliable and secure sources makes your piece wholesome.

Here are the reasons why it’s essential:

  • Reliable sources back up your opinion. Readers tend to take your point of view if it’s well-grounded.
  • A variety of literature provides you with other points, perspectives, and ideas: you are not alone in your opinion.
  • Cited statements make your readers consider and discuss them as a part of the essay.
  • Figures and data from credible sources add validity to your source essay.
  • By reading all that literature , you make an impression of a researcher and analyst.
  • Share the information with your readers so that they can read about the issues themselves.

Primary, Secondary, Tertiary Sources

There is an endless variety of information, both online and offline. How to find what you need? The answer is simple: you just need to know precisely what to search for.

Various sources can fit different purposes and types of works. Let’s dig deeper into their specification!

I. Primary Sources

A primary source is direct, original data designed for further study and analysis. Such sources provide firsthand, authentic information related to an event, phenomenon, or any other subject.

Examples of primary sources are:

  • Literary works
  • Artworks: drawings, sketches
  • Interviews or speeches
  • Original letters or manuscripts
  • Authentic documents of legislation or government
  • Photographs or video recordings

These materials serve as a fundamental base for diverse types of researches. Primary sources are of wide use in historical or literary analysis. Scientific studies and critical commentaries also need primary sources.

There’s a wide range of purposes for which various primary sources serve:

  • For instance, opinion poll findings can be inserted into sociological research.
  • Or let’s take documentary archives: they are essential for an excellent historical monography.
  • For a good essay about a famous person, you will need their lifetime recordings and interviews.

II. Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are on the second level of the authenticity hierarchy. It means someone has already processed the data, analyzed, or critiqued it.

That doesn’t make secondary sources worse or less valid, though. Let’s have a closer look at the examples:

  • Scholarly articles and books
  • Any type of criticism ( literary, music, or cinematography critique )
  • Commentaries and reviews
  • Interpretations, analysis, and synthesis
  • Famous people’s biographies
  • Textbooks (may be tertiary)

Secondary sources are usually interpretive. They tend to analyze already existing information pieces. That’s why one can find them in all sorts of scholarly works, surveys, and articles.

  • For example, original scientific articles excerpted from journals are suitable for the literature review.
  • Critical analyses of Malevich’s Manifesto will fit into the art history dissertation.
  • Marylin Monro’s biography can become a part of a famous 50-s actress encyclopedia, as well.

So, secondary sources are directly related to the primary sources – they use them.

III. Tertiary Sources

Tertiary sources can be defined as a compilation of both primary and secondary sources together. It includes a thorough summary of organized information and its background.

Look at the examples to grasp the idea:

  • Handbooks & textbooks
  • Biographies or compilation of them
  • Dictionaries & encyclopedias
  • Card indexes and catalogs

A tertiary source lets you get easy and fast access to a large amount of data. They are accommodating for extensive surveys and researches.

  • Let’s take an essay on the abortion issue. You’re going to need figures and statistics from the birth rate data reports to write it.
  • Another example is a scholarly work studying American poets of the late 40s. More likely, you’ll need a catalog with specific names, so you can understand what to search.
  • Or, you’re studying psychiatry and are about to write a term paper on addictions affecting people’s lives. In that case, a guidebook on different types of addictions will be of great value for you.

🔢 Primary, Secondary, Tertiary… It’s All Relative

Any document or piece of information can be primary, secondary, or tertiary.

It depends on the way you treat it.

Your exact question and a research focus play a decisive role while identifying the sources.

Let’s get a more precise understanding of this with the help of some good examples.

🧱 Why Finding Credible Sources Is a Must?

We hope you are now more confident with primary, secondary, and tertiary sources.

Now let’s get to the rules of defining a list of credible sources.

It’s essential to be picky and attentive when it comes to source selection! Don’t fall upon any text you encounter online, especially if the website isn’t reliable enough.

How to Find Credible Sources?

We suggest you a checklist for recognizing the most valid sources:

  • H-index: check out a publication’s authority according to the Hirsch index . It’s one of the most reliable ways to prove article validity.
  • Make sure the domain is safe . Websites with suspicious domains tend to provide dubious information.
  • Look for some extra information: if you find some relevant source, try to look for references in other sources.

Anyway, the best way to make your paper decent and solid is to double-check all the data you use. Take as a rule analyzing and reflecting upon everything you read.

Now you know the very fundamentals of working with the sources, it’s time to move on.

The following section is about the types of primary sources.

Are you excited enough to find out what types of primary sources exist there?

5 Common Types of Primary Sources

We offer a list of five types of primary sources that are used pretty often. However, there are many more primary sources out there to study.

✍️ Writing a Primary Source Essay

Is it time to write a primary source essay yet?

Let’s learn how to deal with the primary sources analysis essay in this section.

Keep on reading what we have prepared to master writing essays with reliable sources!

1. What Is a Primary Source Essay?

A primary source essay is writing where you widely and frequently cite primary sources. You have to reflect upon them, analyze, and use them as a foundation for your arguments. For example, it can be an analysis essay studying the logic of literary devices used in the Iliad.

Here are the examples we’ve prepared for you for a better understanding:

  • Topic: “Analysis of Clyde Griffiths’ character in Theodore Dreiser’s American Tragedy.” Concept: Look for descriptions of Clyde’s character in the book first. Then cite these extracts in your essay while solidifying your opinion. Primary sources: The primary source which you are going to use is the novel itself.
  • Topic: “Analysis of the reasons for low birth rate in Northern countries.” Concept: Get down to searching sociological articles dedicated to this issue. Find the information that reveals particular reasons and use it as supporting arguments. Primary sources: birth statistics, value surveys, and other data about economic and well-being factors.
  • Topic: “The peculiarities of female writers’ acceptance in the 1950s.” Concept: There must be a lot of criticism written in those years. Search for the most exciting and worth citing pieces, draw the quotations to your writing. Primary sources: book reviews, interpretations, newspaper articles of that period
  • Topic: “Analysis of major turning points of WWII.” Concept: You’ll have to look for the sources containing the information on the critical WWII events. Refer to the views of different authors to prove the event was significant. Primary sources: books of authoritative historians and memoirs of war participants.
  • Topic: “How modern female singers are presented in online media”? Concept: Head for digital sources dedicated to famous people’s lives, find articles, pictures, and interviews. Primary sources: online magazines, journals, and articles.

2. Primary Source Analysis Essay: Writing Guide

You already understand how to use primary sources in your writing. It’s time to comprehend the whole process of writing a primary source essay format in detail.

Are you ready?

Working with the Source

To ensure that a source is reliable and meets all the demands, you should conduct preliminary analysis . Any piece of information and external factors are worth your attention here.

Use this checklist to make yourself sure about source credibility:

  • Learn about the author of the source. Where do they come from, what are their characteristics – social and demographic?
  • Analyze the way the author tries to deliver the message: the style, language, tone. Does it have signs of prejudice or bias? Does the narrative show the author’s full awareness of the issue?
  • Evaluate and describe the context of the document or whatever the source is.
  • Try to find out the exact circumstances and time when the source first appeared.

Introducing the Key Ideas

Are you most likely to have a keen desire to sound persuasive to the audience? Let the readers comprehend the primary focus of research. Give a brief description of the main idea, state a thesis and your opinion before going into details.

Analyzing the Meaning

We have approached the central and the most supplemented part of the essay – its body.

It’s time to go all-in now.

In the central part of the analysis, you should use meticulous details and a thorough description of the essence.

Observe the fundamental points:

  • You aim to prove the significance of the source for the work. Show the value the document or object carries and what questions it answers.
  • Are there other viewpoints on the subject in question? Analyze different approaches and interpretations as well.
  • Also, consider the points where this source isn’t helpful: answers on which questions it fails to give?

Concluding the Analysis

It’s the right moment to wind up with your primary source essay.

The process doesn’t differ much from that of any other type of essay. The peculiarities of the conclusion may vary depending on the research question.

  • Comprise and sum up all your ideas and thoughts.
  • Draw a consistent summary based on everything you’ve discussed in your writing.
  • Repeat the value and novelty of using your primary sources one more time.

3. How to Cite a Primary Source?

The final step is to cite primary sources properly. There can be a great variety of them. For instance, you may have to cite primary sources from a book or website.

It may happen that you’ll have to cite sources both inside the text and in the bibliography list:

We’ll give you examples of how to cite a book or refer to a picture you use in the text.

How to Cite Primary Sources in Text

The citation appears right in the text.

How to Cite Primary Sources in Bibliography

Let’s see how to cite a source in the bibliography list now.

🔎 Where to Find Good Essay Sources?

If you are at this point, you know how to write an excellent primary source analysis essay. You definitely got an idea of how to cite primary sources for it.

It’s a good deal of work!

Now you wonder where to find good sources, do you?

No worries, we’ve prepared a list of reliable and trustworthy websites for you:

Academic Sources: Search Engines and Individual Publishers

Scholar.google.com Directory of Open Access Journals Aosis Open Journals Taylor & Francis Copernicus Publications F1000Research Highwire free online full-text articles Hindawi Publishing Corporation Open Book Publishers Open Edition PeerJ Public Library of Science Sage The Company of Biologists

University Libraries with Open Access Policies

MIT Libraries Harvard Library Databases Yale Digital Collections Center University of Hawaii Library Columbia University Libraries

Open Access to Academic Sources – Full-Text Articles

Dovepress Academic Journals Open Library (JSTOR’s project) National Agricultural Library AGRIS Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations Arachne (Archaeology, Art History database) Arnetminer (Computer Science database) arXiv Cornell University Library

Hopefully, you’ll have no problem accessing the academic sources you need.

And that takes us to the final checklist. Go through this list and figure your strong and weak sides.

  • You clearly understand the differences between primary, secondary, and tertiary sources. You know when to use each of them.
  • You know how to detect credible sources, where to find them, and how to evaluate them.
  • You exactly know which type of primary sources you need for your essay topic.
  • You’ve conducted a preliminary analysis with these sources and gathered the basic info about the author, date, and place of creation, as well as analyzed discussion, critique, etc.
  • You’ve sufficiently applied the data from the primary sources in your essay.
  • You’ve followed all rules of citing primary sources: they are cited correctly both in text and bibliography.

We wish you lots of inspiration and good luck 🍀

Research Paper Analysis: How to Analyze a Research Article + Example

Film analysis: example, format, and outline + topics & prompts.

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Source Analysis Essay Writing Guide

Source analysis essay.

  • An example of an outline for character analysis essay

Sources can be classified into two groups. These are the primary sources and the secondary sources. Primary sources are the materials that involves history like original documents which were created at the time under study. On the contrary, secondary sources are the interpretations of events created by another person without direct experience. Students who analyze sources can give them a powerful sense of history as well as the intricacy of the past. This will also strengthen their higher-order intellect and have better critical thinking and analysis skills. Before reading the document, questions that are going to be addressed in the paper must be written down. The material that will be used for source analysis should be thoroughly read first and further research must be done from the list of references or citations. These sources are further identified and group if these are either primary or secondary sources. There are different kinds of questions encountered in analyzing a source. Questions regarding the evidences of the author in relation to his or her argument are called the Evidence questions. This is about how the evidences support the arguments and is it valid to the said statement. Another example of an evidence question is asking about the credibility of an evidence. One can already recognize bias in an evidence. Just like in a critical analysis paper, a source analysis paper has its structure or parts. Prior to starting your paper, you should have already prepared a guide. A good guide is an outline of what your argument is about and how your evidences will be introduced throughout the essay. The source analysis essay is started with a brief introduction and or summary of the literary work or material that will be used in the paper. These should be concise since this is not the main purpose of your paper. The introduction should also clearly define your argument or opinion with regards towards the sources being used by the material and a brief summary of what is expected in the paper. This will prepare your readers as well as make them truly understand what your work is all about. An example of an introduction would be:

“Before the colonizers from the European continent came to the western hemisphere, they used a land that they believe it will benefit their lifestyle and mission on a long-term basis. Europeans thought that this theoretical application is effective due to the scarce population of Native American settlers in the area. As an assumption, the Europeans conducted a survey, which later transformed several lands as their new property after settling in the western hemisphere.”

For the other part of essay is the body. This comprises your argument. This would also include the sub-arguments. These sub-arguments are the mini-theses which will help the larger argument true. The author’s intent, historical context as well as the content of the source is further compared and criticized in the part of the paper. The relevance of the source used is also further expounded. A great example is:

“It has been observed that both Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson held different point of ideas regarding their belief of America’s economic system, they still agreed that commerce should be always utilized when expanding lands made by the United States through international jurisdictions.”

Lastly, to make a lasting impression of your paper, it should have a prodigious conclusion. A simple conclusion could already have a lasting effect. It should reflect your argument and cite again its importance. The writer could also suggest ways of improving his essay or analysis. A conclusion ought to be like this:

“Both Hamilton and Jefferson supported the desire to initiate economic system development in North America that has resulted into a broadening perception that is applicable with the new settlements across the US. The people of the United States were encouraged by their beliefs as well as the laws in order to expand settlement areas that were not being settled by the Europeans. This is for the purpose of making intensive harvest new raw materials that will generate profits and surplus to the market. The creation of high-intensity improvement and utilization are necessary that generates a sustainable capitalist system that results into the process of degrading the land. If the land becomes unusable, it will encourage citizens to expand their land.”

An example of an outline for character analysis essay:

History of American Environmental Thought

Introduction :

  • Right before the colonizers from Europe came, North American indigenous residents and groups also utilized their lands to have a long-term benefit.
  • There are significant number of Europeans who traveled to both West and South to occupy and improve unsettled areas during the 18th century.
  • Expanding unimproved lands by the European settlers has been influenced by a certain belief and practice that seeks to expand an existing market economy of a certain area.
“The issue of development desire of existing economic systems of a certain target market in North American continent has been supported by legislators such as Hamilton and Jefferson that encouraged an attitude to expand to other unsettled areas in the US.”

In case you have problems with source analysis essay writing we at custom essay order website are ready to help you!

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How to Write a Literature Review: Primary and Secondary Sources

  • Writing a Literature Review in APA Format
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Primary versus Secondary Sources

Primary vs. secondary videos.

Primary, Secondary, & Tertiary Sources The content of research papers may come from different types of sources, such as:

  • Your own opinion and analysis
  • Primary sources
  • Secondary sources
  • Tertiary sources

It may not be necessary to include each of these types of sources in every paper you write, but your instructor may require you to include them. It is important to understand the characteristics of primary, secondary and tertiary sources–they each serve a different purpose throughout the research process, and can strengthen your assignment, too.

It can be difficult to figure out if a source is considered primary, secondary, or tertiary. We will explain the differences and provide examples of each in this tutorial. If you are still not sure if a source you would like to use is primary, secondary, or tertiary, ask a librarian or teacher.

What is a Primary Source? Primary sources are first-hand, authoritative accounts of an event, topic, or historical time period. They are typically produced at the time of the event by a person who experienced it, but can also be made later on in the form of personal memoirs or oral histories.

Anything that contains original information on a topic is considered a primary source. Usually, primary sources are the object discussed in your paper. For instance, if you are writing an analysis on Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, the book would be a primary source. But, just because a source is old does not mean it is a primary source.

Some examples of original, first-hand, authoritative accounts include:

  • Letters, diaries or journals (Personal thoughts)
  • Original photographs
  • First-hand newspaper reports
  • Speeches, autobiographies
  • Creative works like plays, paintings and songs
  • Research data and surveys

What is a Secondary Source? Secondary sources interpret or critique primary sources. They often include an analysis of the event that was discussed or featured in the primary source.  They are second-hand accounts that interpret or draw conclusions from one or more primary sources.

Some examples of works that interpret or critique primary sources include:

  • Textbooks (May also be considered tertiary)
  • Essays or reviews
  • Articles that analyze or discuss ideas and events
  • Criticisms or commentaries

What is a Tertiary Source? Tertiary sources generally provide an overview or summary of a topic, and may contain both primary and secondary sources. The information is displayed as entirely factual, and does not include analysis or critique.  Tertiary sources can also be collections of primary and secondary sources, such as databases, bibliographies and directories.

Some examples of sources that provide a summary or collection of a topic include:

  • Textbooks (May also be considered secondary)
  • Bibliographies or abstracts
  • Wikipedia articles
  • Encyclopedias

Using Primary, secondary and Tertiary Sources in Research Let’s say you are writing a research paper on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) of 1972, but you are unfamiliar with it. A good place to gather a general idea or understanding of the ERA would be a tertiary source, such as Wikipedia or the Encyclopedia Britannica. There, you can read a summary of events on its history, key people involved, and legislation.

To find more in-depth analysis on the Equal Rights Amendment, you consult a secondary source: the nonfiction book Why We Lost the ERA by Jane Mansbridge and a newspaper article from the 1970’s that discuss and review the legislation. These provide a more focused analysis of the Equal Rights Amendment that you can include as sources in your paper (make sure you cite them!).  A primary source that could bolster your research would be a government document detailing the ERA legislation that initially passed in Congress, giving a first-hand account of the legislation that went through the House and Senate in 1972.

This video provides a great overview of primary and secondary sources: [ youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v= PgfQC4d3pKc &w=420&h=315]

Source:  http://content.easybib.com/students/research-guide/primary-secondary-tertiary-sources/

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How to use Copilot Pro in Word

1. open word.

Launch Microsoft Word and open a blank document. Let's say you need help writing a particular type of document and want Copilot to create a draft. 

Also: Microsoft Copilot Pro vs. OpenAI's ChatGPT Plus: Which is worth your $20 a month?

A small "Draft with Copilot" window appears on the screen. If you don't see it, click the tiny "Draft with Copilot icon in the left margin."

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2. Submit your request

At the text field in the window, type a description of the text you need and click the "Generate" button.

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Submit your request.

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Copilot generates and displays its response. After reading the response, you're presented with a few different options.

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Review the response and your options.

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If you like the draft, click "Keep it." The draft is then inserted into your document where you can work with it. If you don't like the draft, click the "Regenerate" button, and a new draft is created. 

Also: What is Copilot (formerly Bing Chat)? Here's everything you need to know

If you'd prefer to throw out the entire draft and start from scratch, click the trash can icon.

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Keep, regenerate, or remove the draft.

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Alternatively, you can try to modify the draft by typing a specific request in the text field, such as "Make it more formal," "Make it shorter," or "Make it more casual."

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Alter the draft.

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7. Revise existing text

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Revise existing text.

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Copilot creates a few different versions of the text. Click the arrow keys to view each version.

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Review the different versions.

9. Replace or Insert

If you find one you like, click "Replace" to replace the text you selected. 

Also: ChatGPT vs. Microsoft Copilot vs. Gemini: Which is the best AI chatbot?

Click "Insert below" to insert the new draft below the existing words so you can compare the two.

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Replace or Insert.

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Adjust the tone.

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Sometimes you have text that would look and work better as a table. Copilot can help. Select the text you wish to turn into a table. Click the Copilot icon and select "Visualize as a Table."

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Turn text into a table.

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In response, click "Keep it" to retain the table. Click "Regenerate" to try again. Click the trash can icon to delete it. Otherwise, type a request in the text field, such as "remove the second row" or "make the last column wider."

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Respond to the table.

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Copilot Pro can provide a summary of a document with its key points. To try this, open the document you want to summarize and then click the Copilot icon on the Ribbon. 

Also: The best AI chatbots

The right sidebar displays several prompts you can use to start your question. Click the one for "Summarize this doc."

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Summarize a document.

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View the generated summary in the sidebar. If you like it as is, click the "Copy" button to copy the summary and paste it elsewhere.

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Review the summary.

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Revise the summary.

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Ask questions about a document.

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Write an Essay Outline

    Revised on July 23, 2023. An essay outline is a way of planning the structure of your essay before you start writing. It involves writing quick summary sentences or phrases for every point you will cover in each paragraph, giving you a picture of how your argument will unfold.

  2. A Step-by-Step Guide to Primary Source Analysis

    1. Start simple 2. The context 3. Who is it for? 4. A quick summary 5. Reliability 6. Question everything 1. Start simple Begin by answering a few basic questions. What type of source is it? Primary sources can be letters, diary entries, data entries, interviews, or even photographs. Next, who created it?

  3. PDF Essay Outline Template

    1 of 2 Essay Outline Template What is an outline? When writing an academic essay, an outline can help you structure and plan your arguments and ideas, while creating a guide for how to organize your paragraphs. Almost all essays can follow the same basic structure with variations based on the number of paragraphs or specific requirements.

  4. PDF A Brief Guide to Analyzing and Writing about Primary Sources

    How Do You Write a History Essay Based on Primary Sources? • Step One - Formulate a Question and Argument: After you have read and analyzed your primary source or sources, you want to focus your topic and develop your main argument or thesis statement, by posing an important question

  5. How to Write an Essay Outline in 4 Steps

    An essay outline is an informal document that lists and orders the parts of an essay so the writer can stay on track and make sure they don't miss anything. Because it's informal, an outline is usually written in incomplete sentences, similar to notes.

  6. How to Analyze a Primary Source

    In order to analyze a primary source you need information about two things: the document itself, and the era from which it comes. You can base your information about the time period on the readings you do in class and on lectures. On your own you need to think about the document itself. The following questions may be helpful to you as you begin ...

  7. Primary vs. Secondary Sources

    A primary source is anything that gives you direct evidence about the people, events, or phenomena that you are researching. Primary sources will usually be the main objects of your analysis.

  8. Getting Started with Primary Sources

    Engage students with primary sources. Primary sources help students relate in a personal way to events of the past and promote a deeper understanding of history as a series of human events. Because primary sources are incomplete snippets of history, each one represents a mystery that students can only explore further by finding new pieces of ...

  9. Guidelines for the Primary Source Paper

    Use your analytical skills when approaching these primary sources: think about authorship, historical context, when created, tone, rhetoric & word choice, audience, significance. II. Pocket Guide to Writing in History, I expect students to have read and digested the following pages: Chapter 2 (all) 3b-4, 3b-5, 3b-7 Chapter 4 - all Ch 5 (all

  10. Source-based essay

    3 years ago. Would love to have six to ten source-based essay prompts for practice! It is easy to find lots of argumentative essay prompts in random places online, but the source-based version is rather scarce. Thanks so much! I rocked the Math and Reading PRAXIS with the help of Khan! Just have the Writing left to take this week...

  11. Single-Source Analysis

    In the "Practice" part of "How to Teach It" here above, we laid out a timeline for a single-source analysis. That timeline itself roughly followed the "Sample Sequence of Formative Assignments for a 'Typical' Essay" outlined under "Formative Writing Assignments," and it spans about 5-6 steps.If your class meets twice weekly, that means a 2-4 week arc, and that's probably a good baseline ...

  12. Types of Outlines

    Select the "Sample Outlines" PDF in the Media Box above to download the sample of this outline. The sample PDF in the Media Box above is an example of an outline that a student might create before writing an essay.

  13. Essay Sources: Where to Find & How to Cite? Primary Sources Essay

    Critical reviews as primary or secondary sources. If your essay focuses on Walter Whitman's poetry, the reviews and interpretations of his works are the secondary sources. But if you study how the critics accepted his poetry, those reviews serve as the primary source. Catalogs as primary or tertiary sources.

  14. Primary and Secondary Sources: What's the Difference?

    Secondary sources are a step removed from primary sources. Essentially, they're sources about primary sources. Secondary sources include: Essays analyzing novels, works of art, and other original creations. Textbook passages discussing specific concepts, events, and experiments. Biographies of historical and famous people.

  15. How To Write A Source Analysis Essay, with Outline

    Primary sources are the materials that involves history like original documents which were created at the time under study. On the contrary, secondary sources are the interpretations of events created by another person without direct experience.

  16. How to Write a Literature Review: Primary and Secondary Sources

    Primary sources are first-hand, authoritative accounts of an event, topic, or historical time period. They are typically produced at the time of the event by a person who experienced it, but can also be made later on in the form of personal memoirs or oral histories. Anything that contains original information on a topic is considered a primary ...

  17. How to Write a Synthesis Essay, WIth Examples

    Synthesis essay structure 1: By topic. The first kind of synthesis essay structure involves discussing each topic individually, mentioning each source's perspective on it, and then moving on to the next topic. This approach lets you compare or join together points made by different sources about the same specific topic.

  18. Drafting an Outline

    John Gray Park '28 Library 860-927-6200 [email protected] Instagram Facebook

  19. Primary Sources Essays: Examples, Topics, & Outlines

    primary sources are documents that were written during the time under study, those that present facts or opinions from the primary source (e.g. author). They present an inside view of a particular event, but they may not always be 100% accurate since there is room for error or interpretation.

  20. How to use Copilot Pro to write, edit, and analyze your Word ...

    2. Submit your request. At the text field in the window, type a description of the text you need and click the "Generate" button. Submit your request. Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET. 3. Review ...

  21. Primary Source Essay Outline

    Primary Source Essay Outline, Help With Cheap Creative Essay On Hacking, Paper Ideas For Kids, How Kids Benefit From Homework, Write An Essay On Our National Bird, Admission Essay Topic Texas, How To Write A Cursive T Capital Your Price:.40 per page ...

  22. How to Form an Argumentative Essay Outline

    So in this quick guide, we explain how to make an effective argumentative essay outline, covering all three major formats: Classical (Aristotelian), Rogerian, and Toulmin. We'll also include argumentative essay outline examples and templates to help you understand what works. Communicate with confidence. Grammarly helps you communicate effectively

  23. Primary Source Essay Outline

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  24. Primary Source Essay Outline

    Absolutely! Make an order to write my essay for me, and we will get an experienced paper writer to take on your task. When you set a deadline, some people choose to simply wait until the task is complete, but others choose a more hands-on process, utilizing the encrypted chat to contact their writer and ask for a draft or a progress update.