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
Secondary sources interpret, comment on, analyze, or review information from primary sources and can be written after the time under study. Examples include
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 chart summarizes some of the main distinctions between the two types of sources.
|Characteristics||Popular Source||Scholarly Source|
|Written by||staff writers, reporters, or freelance journalists||researchers, experts in a particular field|
|Audience||general public||academics, someone familiar with the field|
|Language||easy to understand and nontechnical||discipline-specific, often contains jargon|
|Length & scope||short, provides a broad overview of a topic||lengthy, provides in-depth coverage and analysis of a topic|
|Citation & research||
rarely cites sources and often reports on research conducted by others
cites sources and provides extensive references, often presents original research
|Sponsored by||corporate or nonprofit organizations||universities and other educational institutions as well as professional, nonprofit associations|