Primary Sources vs. Secondary Sources: Custom Writing Experts Explain

If you are a student, we bet you’ve heard a lot about primary and secondary sources and their roles in research. But though many are talking about it, not many realize the difference. In this article, expert academic writers will make the concepts of primary and secondary resources clear and help you grasp the difference. But, first...

Why Do You Need to Know the Difference?

When trying to figure out a specific topic, writing an academic paper, or working on a project for school or college, one thing students rely on the most is research. On the one hand, academic research has been made simple thanks to technology and the internet. But, on the other hand, with so much information being available out there, distinguishing fake information from valid has gotten harder than ever. Needless to say, how using invalid data for your papers can ruin your academic performance.

One way to solve this issue is to delegate your academic matters to professionals. The pro team of EssayService can conduct thorough research on any topic and help you get an A-level paper with literally no effort. But, if you want to master the art of effective research yourself, which will definitely come in handy now and in the future, you should know the difference between different types of resources.

So, that’s pretty much why you need to know what primary and secondary resources are. Now, let’s move on and see how our custom writing experts explain these concepts.

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

When it comes to researching, regardless of the subject of research, there are two main sources of information that you will need to consider. These are primary and secondary sources.

So, what is the difference between these two types of sources?

In a nutshell, primary sources are everything that can provide a first-hand account of a specific time period or event. Most often, such resources are created specifically at the time when certain events occur. However, sometimes, primary sources can be created later, after a specific event has already occurred. Simply put, regardless of the time when they were created, primary sources are typically the first formal representation of information. They can share previously unknown information, provide original ideas, or report on events or discoveries. Due to their relevance, timeliness, and originality, such sources are considered to be the most authoritative.

Now, what about secondary sources? As you can easily guess, if primary sources represent a first-hand account of an event or certain time period, then secondary sources are basically a second-hand account of the same time period or events.

Secondary sources are often created on the basis of primary ones. They can involve a reflection on, interpretation, synthesis, evaluation, or analysis of original sources. Often, their goal is to describe the primary source, to make it clearer, fill in the gaps, and reflect on it.

Now that the definitions are clear, there is one more thing to keep in mind. Though we have specific explanations for both terms, the line between primary and secondary sources is still a little blurry. Depending on the specific research or study you are engaged in, these two categories can get mixed.

To help you grasp the idea, let’s look at an example. Let’s say there is a scholarly journal that consists of multiple articles. As a rule, such journals are considered to be secondary sources. Nevertheless, since they often contain original articles on new developments and unique studies, this can turn such articles into primary sources of information.

There is another example that should help. Let’s say there is a newspaper article about a specific event. If you are studying how this event has affected people at that specific time, then the article could be considered a primary source. However, if you are exploring the event itself, then the opinion given in the article would be rather a secondary source.

Now, let’s look at some examples of sources that can fall into each category.

Primary Sources Examples

Primary sources provide information from the first hands. These can include:
● Original works of art, literature, music, etc.
● Diaries, ships’ logs, correspondence.
● Original copies of any official documents, for example, reports, birth certificates, transcripts, etc.
● Autobiographies, biographies, and manuscripts.
● Articles providing NEW information, such as new research, inventions, findings, etc.
● Constitutions, legislation, case law, and regulations.
● Stories told orally, speeches, and interviews.
● Statistical data, government documents, and research reports.
● Newspaper reportages, editorial pieces, advertisements.

So, these are the main types of resources that can be attributed to the primary sources category. Where to find them? Typically, these can be found on official websites of organizations, governments, companies, and agencies, as well as in libraries and archives.

Secondary Sources Examples

As was said earlier, secondary sources involve pieces that interpret, restate, analyze, synthesize, or evaluate information from primary sources. Such sources often have a persuasive nature, meaning they are created to convince readers of the correctness of the author’s ideas.

Some examples of secondary sources include:
● Articles that analyze or comment on someone else’s research.
● Encyclopedias and dictionaries.
● Textbooks.
● Literature that analyzes or interprets events, facts, ideas, etc.
● Biographies.
● Political commentary.
● Newspaper articles and editorial pieces.
● Dissertations and other academic papers.
● Criticism of works of art, music, or literature.

Where to find these sources? As a rule, secondary sources are much easier to find than primary ones. Often, these are available in public access on the internet. Some secondary resources can also be found in libraries.

The Bottom Line

Now, after reading this article, you should have a better idea of what primary and secondary sources are, what they represent, and where to find them. The only question that needs to be answered yet is which ones you should use in your research. And, the answer is both!
Though primary sources are generally considered to be more trustworthy, secondary ones can also come in handy for your research. Since they tend to analyze and interpret original sources, they can be used for clarifying the topic. Thus, both types of sources should be used.

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