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Primary vs secondary sources
Primary vs secondary sources
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Primary vs secondary sources


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  • 1. Primary vs. Secondary Sources Primary Sources Primary sources are the "materials on a topic upon which subsequent interpretations or studies are based, anything from first hand documents such as poems, diaries, court records, and interviews to research results generated by experiments, surveys, ethnographies, and so on."* Primary sources are records of events as they are first described, without any interpretation or commentary. They are also sets of data, such as census statistics, which have been tabulated, but not interpreted. Secondary Sources Secondary sources, on the other hand, offer an analysis or a restatement of primary sources. They often attempt to describe or explain primary sources. Some secondary sources not only analyze primary sources, but use them to argue a contention or to persuade the reader to hold a certain opinion. Examples of secondary sources include: dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, and books and articles that interpret or review research works. Examples of primary and secondary sources: Primary Source Secondary Source Art Original artwork Article critiquing the piece of art History Slave diary Book about the Underground Railroad Literature Poem Treatise on a particular genre of poetry Political Science Treaty Essay on Native American land rights Theatre Videotape of a performance Biography of a playwright If you are unsure of what would be considered a primary source for your particular project, ask your teacher for examples. The following is an incomplete list of things that might be considered primary sources by different academic disciplines.  Anthropology artifact, field notes, fossil, photograph  Art architectural model or drawing, building or structure, letter, motion picture, organizational records, painting, personal account, photograph, print, sculpture, sketch book
  • 2.  Biology field notes, plant specimen, research report  Economics company statistics, consumer survey, data series  Engineering building or structure, map, geological survey, patent, schematic drawing, technical report  Government government report, interview, letter, news report, personal account, press release, public opinion survey, speech, treaty or international agreement  History artifact, diary, government report, interview, letter, map, news report, oral history, organizational records, photograph, speech, work of art  Law code, statute, court opinion, legislative report  Literature contemporary review, interview, letter, manuscript, personal account, published work  Music contemporary review, letter, personal account, score, sound recording  Psychology case study, clinical case report, experimental replication, follow-up study, longitudinal study, treatment outcome study  Sociology cultural artifact, interview, oral history, organizational records, statistical data, survey