Primary or Secondary Sources-- How can I tell?


Use primary sources to help you...

Use secondary sources to help you...


Gain a contemporary understanding of a subject

Get background information about or a synopsis of a subject


Interpret information YOURSELF (Note: some primary sources can be difficult to understand)

Get help from scholars who might be more specialized in a subject  (Note: be aware of possible source bias)


Write an essay that requires you to express your original understanding of a subject

Write an essay that requires you to report on what others have said about a subject (and perhaps defend YOUR informed opinion)

Most researchers will benefit from using a combination of primary and secondary sources

Some materials share features of BOTH primary and secondary sources

Some materials could be considered primary OR secondary, depending upon the research focus

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