Answered By: Hayley Hughes
Last Updated: Sep 07, 2015     Views: 900

A primary source is any material where the author presents his or her own original research, theory, ideas, or experience. Some primary sources include:

  • A research article outlining the methodology and results of the author’s original research
  • The Federal Census
  • The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

A secondary source is material that analyses and discusses a primary source. Some examples:

  • A literature review article in a peer-reviewed journal
  • A newspaper article discussing federal census statistics
  • A book about Freud's theories written by a psychology researcher
  • An encyclopaedia article about Charles Dickens

An article abstract usually contains enough information to determine if the article is primary or secondary. Check for any signs that the authors conducted their own research or are presenting their own experiences, as that means it is a primary source.

NOTE: Some primary sources will include secondary source material, such as the literature review portion of a research article (when the author explores current research by others in the field before discussing the original research component). 

For more information about research, please see our helpful Library Skills for Research Skill Unit.

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