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Primary and Secondary Sources in Humanities
|"Journal of W.H. Collison," Archdeacon W. H. Collison fonds, Item 2009.7.2.7, Northern BC Archives.
A primary source is a first-hand account of an event that is created during the time that event took place; they can also be created retrospectively at a later date by a participant in those events. They are original documents and usually don’t describe or analyze other documents. They can also be creative works.
- Memoirs, autobiographies, manuscripts
- Diaries, letters, oral histories
- Speeches, laws, court documents
- Historical newspaper articles
- Documented observations, interviews, original research, data
- Works of art, novels, plays, artifacts
- Photographs, musical scores, choreography
How are they used?
- Focal point of discussion
- Used to back up claims or criticisms
- Evidence for theories and research
- Historical perspectives
Secondary sources are written by scholars or observers, after the fact, and interpret or analyze primary sources or events. These sources are at least one step removed from what they are describing.
- Scholarly or popular books which provide a summary of events or synthesize information from many primary sources
- Newspaper, magazine or journal articles which analyze events or ideas
- Textbooks, encyclopedias, essays, reviews, reference books
How are they used?
- Get background info and understand the scope of a topic
- See what others have discussed, or get opinions
- Learn how recent events affect or fit into the larger picture
- Understand the significance of events, data, or works of literature and art
Primary and Secondary Sources in the Sciences
|"Pulpmill - General - Chemist conducting testing in lab," Northwood Pulp and Timber Ltd. fonds, Accession # 2001.26.1.68, Northern BC Archives.
Primary sources in the Sciences usually consist of reports on or descriptions of original research. Information presented in primary source documents typically represents the results of scientific studies or experiments, data collection, or field research.
Primary sources in the Science may include:
- Conference proceedings
- Journal articles presenting original research results
- Lab notes
- Theses and dissertations
A secondary source document in the Sciences is usually an interpretation, analysis, or summary of original (primary source) research. Information presented in secondary source documents is based on primary sources, but is "one step" removed from primary source information.
Secondary sources in the Sciences may include:
- Journal articles presenting a review, discussion or analysis of primary research
- Literature reviews
- Monographs (works on a single topic, usually a book)
Library Research Guide
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