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Primary Vs Secondary Sources: Home

Places to find Primary Sources

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Primary vs. Secondary Sources |

Primary Sources

 

Primary sources are immediate, first-hand accounts of a topic, source material that is closest to what is being studied. 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 natural and social sciences, the results of an experiment or study are typically found in scholarly articles or papers delivered at conferences, therefore articles and papers that present the original results are considered primary sources.

  • Texts of laws and other original documents.
  • Newspaper reports, by reporters who witnessed an event or who quote people who did.
  • Speeches, diaries, letters and interviews - what the people involved said or wrote.
  • Original research.
  • Datasets, survey data, such as census or economic statistics.
  • Photographs, video, or audio that capture an event.
 

Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources are one step removed from primary sources, though they often quote or otherwise use primary sources. They can cover the same topic, but add a layer of interpretation and analysis. secondary source is something written about a primary source. Secondary sources include comments on, interpretations of, or discussions about the original material.  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:

  • Most books about a topic.
  • Analysis or interpretation of data.
  • Scholarly or other articles about a topic, especially by people not directly involved.
  • Documentaries (though they often include photos or video portions that can be considered primary sources).
  • Encyclopedias 
  • Textbooks 

Examples

 

           

SUBJECT

PRIMARY

SECONDARY

Art and Architecture

Painting by Basquiat

Article critiquing art piece

Chemistry/Life Sciences

Einstein's diary

Book on Einstein's life

Engineering/Physical Sciences

Explanation of research

Textbook

Humanities

Letters by Martin Luther King

Website on King's writings

Social Sciences

Notes taken by clinical psychologist

Magazine article about the psychological condition

Performing Arts

Movie filmed in 1976

documentary about the director

 

Electronic Resource Librarian

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Dana Sinclair
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Contact:
Library (Campus Center)
Office: L-254
sinclaird@oldwestbury.edu
(516) 876-3266
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