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Primary and Secondary Sources

Information may be presented from two viewpoints: a primary or secondary source.  Knowing the source of the information you are researching can help you make an informed decision on the authority of the person presenting it or the timeliness of the information.

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Primary Source:

  • Official record of an event which is written or recorded by people present at it.
  • Factual data – not an interpretation of it.

Examples of Primary Sources:

  • The original published results of a clinical trial, research study or scientific experiment.
  • A live interview or a transcript or recording of it.
  • Notes from a conference or a class.
  • Diaries, letters, or other first person accounts.
  • Autobiographies or first person accounts in books, eBooks and newspaper.
  • Photographs, maps, artwork or other creative works or artifact from a time period.
  • Social Media: Tweets, texts, status updates, original blogs or Reddit AMAs.

Secondary Source:

  • An interpretation or analysis of data, a study or a report.
  • A second-hand account of an event.
  • These sources may cite or quote the primary source.

Examples of Secondary Sources:

  • Most books and eBooks – especially textbooks, encyclopedia or other reference books.
  • Criticism and reviews
  • Content re-generators
  • Wikipedia
  • Comment sections
  • Social Media: Pins on Pinterest, re-tweets, shared posts or links to other content.
  • Newspaper articles from outside sources
  • Magazine articles
  • Student research papers
  • Journal articles on previous clinical or scientific work