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ENC 1101: Composition I

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

When researching your topic, it's important to understand the differences between primary and secondary sources. Here are some general definitions and examples.

Primary Sources provide direct or firsthand evidence about an event, object, person or work of art and are usually written or created during the time under study. Examples include

  • Articles presenting original research and data
  • Interviews 
  • Speeches
  • Archival materials (like letters, diaries, photographs, etc.)
  • Creative Works
  • Newspaper articles reporting on current events

Secondary sources interpret, comment on, analyze, or review information from primary sources and can be written after the time under study. Examples include

  • Articles in periodicals (journals, magazines, newspapers, etc.) that review or interpret previous research or events
  • Most non-fiction books, including textbooks, biographies, and history books

Scholarly vs. Popular Sources

While many of our library databases allow you to filter your search results to scholarly articles, it is still helpful to know the differences between popular and scholarly sources to ensure that you are fulfilling your assignment requirements. This infographic summarizes some of the main distinctions between the two types of sources.