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Identify Sources: Primary or Secondary/Scholarly or Popular/Peer-Reviewed: Primary or Secondary ?

How to identify sources

What is this page for?

Help with identifying if a source is PRIMARY or SECONDARY

Primary Defined

  • A Primary Source is an original work of literature or art or a first-hand account of an event that has not been interpreted by anyone other than its creator.
  • These sources were either created during the time period being studied, or were created at a later date by someone who participated in the events (ex: memoirs).
  • They reflect the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer.
  • Some examples or primary sources: diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, eye-witness accounts, autobiographies, clinical research, case studies, and works of art such as poetry, photographs, paintings, music.

Is My Source Primary or Secondary?

Secondary Defined

  • A Secondary Source is any information written ABOUT the primary source text. 
  • Secondary sources also provide interpretation, commentary and analysis, and criticism of an historical event, in other words, events that are recounted by people who were not first-hand witnesses  but are generally at least one step removed.
  • Some examples of secondary sources are: analysis or research based journal articles, biographies, political commentary, books that interpret or analyze, newspaper editorials, reference works, literature and other reviews.
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