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LS 201 Library Instruction: Sources + Literature Review

This is a guide created for Dr. Pulsifer's LS 201 class to assist students in writing their final paper.

Primary Source vs. Secondary

primary source is an original object or document -- the raw material or first-hand information, source material that is closest to what is being studied. Scientific and other peer reviewed journals are excellent sources for primary research.

Primary sources vary by discipline and can include historical and legal documents, eye witness accounts, results of an experiment, statistical data, pieces of creative writing, and art objects.

In the sciences, the results of an experiment or study are typically found in scholarly articles or papers delivered at conferences, so those articles and papers that present the original results are considered primary sources.

secondary source is something written about a primary source. Secondary sources include comments on, interpretations of, or discussions about the original material. You can think of secondary sources as second-hand information. If I tell you something, I am the primary source. If you tell someone else what I told you, you are the secondary source.

Secondary source materials can be articles in newspapers or popular magazines, book or movie reviews, or articles found in scholarly journals that evaluate or criticize someone else's original research.

More on Primary Sources

Primary sources can look different depending on your discipline.

articles describing the research design and findings of original studies journals, diaries, letters, interviews
patents & blueprints historical newspapers, government documents
reports on original research works of art