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English 120 Workshop: Sources

Primary Sources

Most simply put, a primary source is original research or the first appearance of an idea or theory.  Some databases will allow you to limit to primary sources.  Some primary sources include:

  • Original Research, Such as a clinical trials or randomized controlled trials that studies a disease or a drug or treatment on a disease

  • Newspaper articles written at the time

  • Original and/or historical documents, such as letters, diaries, autobiographies, speeches , birth certificates, marriage license, patents, trial transcripts

  • Maps

  • Film footage, sound recordings, and photographs

  • Statistics

  • Works of art, artifacts, buildings, fiction, poetry, or plays 

  • Interviews and proceedings of meetings 

  • Dissertations  (can also be secondary)

Secondary Sources

Most simply put, a secondary source often interpret and comment on, or build upon primary sources.  Some databases will allow you to limit to secondary sources.  These are some examples of secondary sources:

  • Biographies
  • Journals articles that are not primary sources
  • Book reviews
  • Review articles
  • Practice Guidelines used in medicine, nursing, and psychology
  • Print bibliographies and bibliographic databases, such as Academic Search Premier, PubMed, and JSTOR (also considered tertiary)

Dissertations  (can also be primary)

Primary vs Secondary Sources

Subject Guide

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Robert Farrell
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