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Primary vs. Secondary sources April 28, 2009

Posted by mplibrary in @ your library.

Teachers often differentiate between primary vs. secondary sources for your papers. How can you tell the difference?

A primary source may be
-an original, first hand account of an event or time period
-an original, creative writing or work of art
-a report of scientific discoveries
-raw data from clinical trials or experiments
-factual, not interpretive

A secondary source may be
-a description or analysis of a primary source
-criticism of a work of art or literature
-an analysis of research results

Some examples of primary and secondary sources:

Primary: recording or transcript of an interview with a participant or witness
Secondary: an article about that interview

Primary: diary, personal journal, letters
Secondary: A book about that person’s personal diary or letters

Primary: poem, short story, novel, play
Secondary: an article about the poem; a book of literary criticism about a novel

Primary: painting, sculpture, original music
Secondary: Articles or books analyzing the art or music

Primary: speech
Secondary: commentary on that speech

Primary: newspaper and magazine articles published at the time of an event
Secondary: description of news gleaned from those articles at a later time

Primary: published results of scientific or social research or experiments
Secondary: publications about the significance of research or experiments

Primary: government documents (census, marriage, military, treaties, constitutions)
Secondary: description or report of your findings in those documents

Primary: an autobiography (a first-person life story)
Secondary: a biography (a life story written by another person)

Primary: photographs, maps, postcards, posters
Secondary: article or book describing those visual materials

-J. Adams



1. Bookwoman - April 29, 2009

This is great! Wish everyone would bookmark it.

2. Yes Dumagan - April 30, 2009

thanks for the information. now i know the differences 🙂

3. commercial music - October 23, 2014

Nice blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
A design like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my blog shine.
Please let me know wherde you got your theme. Thank you

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