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Research Process: A Step-By-Step Guide: 3b. Primary vs. Secondary Sources
A guide to help you through the steps of the research process.
When evaluating information, it is useful to identify if it's a Primary, Secondary, or Tertiary source. By doing so, you will be able recognize if the author is reporting on his/her own first hand experiences, or relying on the views of others.
Primary A first person account by someone who experienced or witnessed an event. The original document has not been previously published or interpreted by anyone else.
First person account of an event
First publication of a scientific study
Speech or lecture
Letters between two people
Historical documents, e.g. Bill of Rights
Secondary One step removed from the primary original source. The author is reexamining, interpreting and forming conclusions based on the information conveyed in the primary source.
Newspaper reporting on a scientific study
Review of a music CD or art show
Tertiary Further removed from a primary source. It leads the researcher to a secondary source, rather than to the primary source.