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Primary and Secondary Sources

Definition

secondary source is one that was created later by someone that did not experience firsthand or participate in the events in which the author is writing about. Secondary sources often summarize, interpret, analyze or comment on information found in primary sources.

Common examples of secondary sources include:

  • Books
  • Biographies
  • Essays
  • Literary Criticism
  • Encyclopedias
  • Journal articles that do not present new research

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Primary vs. Secondary Source Examples
Academic Discipline Primary Source Secondary Source
Science (Biology, Chemistry, etc.) A research study that contains materials, methods, and results section describing an experiment performed by the author(s) An article commenting on the results of an original study
History Slave narrative Book about the underground railroad
Nursing A quantitative or qualitative study that contains a materials, methods and results section describing an experiment performed by the author(s) A review article that summarizes what is known about a topic
Psychology Patient interview tape Biography of Sigmund Freud
Business NASDAQ stock quote Historical stock analysis
Political Science US Census statistics Book about urban population changes in the US
English Poem Criticism of the poem