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Primary and Secondary Sources: Home

Overview of primary/secondary sources

Primary & Secondary Sources Overview

Primary and secondary sources are going to look different in the humanities and social sciences (for example, English or History) than they do in the sciences (for example, Chemistry or Biology).

Primary sources are original materials on which research is based. They present information in its original form, neither interpreted nor condensed nor evaluated by other writers. Secondary sources generally analyze, interpret, or provide commentary on primary sources.

In the humanities and social sciences, primary sources are the direct or first-hand evidence of events, objects, people, or works of art. 

In the sciences, primary sources focus on original research, ideas, or findings.  They present new data and detail the researcher’s methodology and results.

Understanding Primary & Secondary Sources in less than 3 minutes

This video describes the major characteristics of primary and secondary sources in the humanities, and how they can be used in research.

Primary sources are original materials on which research is based. 
Secondary sources provide commentary upon, interpretation of, or analysis of primary sources.

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