Primary and Secondary Resources
Primary resources contain first-hand information, meaning that you are reading the author’s own account on a specific topic or event that s/he participated in. Examples of primary resources include scholarly research articles, books, and diaries. Primary sources such as research articles often do not explain terminology and theoretical principles in detail. Thus, readers of primary scholarly research should have foundational knowledge of the subject area. Use primary resources to obtain a first-hand account to an actual event and identify original research done in a field. For many of your papers, use of primary resources will be a requirement.
Examples of a primary source are:
- Original documents such as diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, records, eyewitness accounts, autobiographies
- Empirical scholarly works such as research articles, clinical reports, case studies, dissertations
- Creative works such as poetry, music, video, photography
- From the Library's homepage, begin your search in Roadrunner Search or select a specific database from the Databases page or Find an Article pages.
- Use the Scholarly/Peer-Reviewed Journal limiter to narrow your search to journal articles.
- Once you have a set of search results, remember to look for articles where the author has conducted original research. A primary research article will include a literature review, methodology, population or set sample, test or measurement, discussion of findings and usually future research directions.
Secondary sources describe, summarize, or discuss information or details originally presented in another source; meaning the author, in most cases, did not participate in the event. This type of source is written for a broad audience and will include definitions of discipline specific terms, history relating to the topic, significant theories and principles, and summarizations of major studies/events as related to the topic. Use secondary sources to obtain an overview of a topic and/or identify primary resources. Refrain from including such resources in an annotated bibliography for doctoral level work unless there is a good reason.
Examples of a secondary source are:
- Publications such as textbooks, magazine articles, book reviews, commentaries, encyclopedias, almanacs
- Annual Reviews (scholarly article reviews)
- Credo Reference (encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks & more)
- Ebrary (ebooks)
- ProQuest (book reviews, bibliographies, literature reviews & more )
- SAGE Reference Methods, SAGE Knowledge & SAGE Navigator (handbooks, encyclopedias, major works, debates & more)
- Most other Library databases include secondary sources.
For a quick, visual guide to comparing primary and secondary resources, see the following:
Primary vs. Secondary Sources: What is the Difference Between Them?
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