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Primary sources: Primary

Definitions and examples of primary sources.

Definition

Primary sources: Evidence produced as close as possible in time or place to an event, individual, or phenomenon. A source of original data. Newspaper articles, interviews.

Secondary sources: Any source of information based on a primary source. Interpretation of evidence related to the event, individual, or issue under study. Histories, biographies, literary criticism and interpretation.

Tertiary sources: A work that helps a researcher identify primary and secondary sources. Fact books, directories, bibliographies.

Analysis of primary sources

  • Remain skeptical and question the source. Examine the specific information.
  • Is there bias? Prejudices? Who is the intended audience?
  • Note that some primary sources, e.g., newspaper article written shortly after days of an event, may later reveal false or misleading information.

"Despite the fact that some primary sources can contain false information or lead readers to false conclusions based on the facts presented, they remain an invaluable resource regarding past events. Primary sources allow readers and researchers to come as close as possible to understanding the perceptions and context of events and thus to more fully appreciate how and why misconceptions occur."

Using primary sources. (2016). In K. L. Lerner (Ed.), Worldmark global health and medicine issues.

 

Primary sources can be:

Primary sources can include:

  •  Firsthand accounts of historic events by witnesses and participants - diary or journal entries, letters, newspaper articles, interviews, memoirs, emails, blogs, and testimony in legal proceedings.
  • Policy statements, speeches, interviews, press releases, government reports, and legislation -- from government leaders and leaders of other organizations.
  • Works of art, photographs, poems, songs, and advertisements.
  • Scholarly journal articles (evidence based)

Note:

"In some cases, secondary sources or tertiary sources may be treated as primary sources, and they may be created many years after an event. Ordinarily, a historical retrospective published after the initial event is not considered a primary source. If, however, a resource contains statements or recollections of participants or witnesses to the original event, the source may be considered primary with regard to those statements and recollections."                                                                                             

Valentine, R. (2013). American Decades Primary Sources.

Bibliography

George, M. W. (2008). The elements of library research: What every student needs to know. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University.

Primary source. (2010). In A. B. Powers, Dictionary of nursing theory and research (4th ed.). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company. Retrieved from Credo Reference database.

Source, secondary. (2009). In A. S. Reber, R. Allen, & E. S. Reber, The Penguin dictionary of psychology (4th ed.). London, UK: Penguin. Retrieved from Credo Reference database.

Using primary sources. (2016). In K. L. Lerner (Ed.), Worldmark global health and medicine issues. Farmington, MI: Gale. Retrieved from Credo Reference database.

Valentine, R. (2013). American Decades Primary Sources (Vol. 11) (L. W. Baker, Ed.). Retrieved from Gale Virtual Reference Library database.

Primary source. (2010). In A. B. Powers, Dictionary of nursing theory and research (4th ed.). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company. Retrieved from Credo Reference database.