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What Is A Secondary Source

    However, a primary source could be developed by a researcher who needed to gain direct experience or participate in the conditions or events you’re studying. To be used in historical research, secondary sources typically refer to scholars’ written work, usually articles or books. Additionally, there are references like encyclopedias and reference books.

    As an example, the book The University in Illinois 1894-2004: The Making of the University, released in 2000, can be used as a second resource to find out more about the UI in the early part of the early 20th century.

    Regarding secondary sources, the most trustworthy sources are the ones that were the most recently published. If you use an additional source written years ago, it’s essential to know what researchers have published on the topic and what comments they’ve offered on the previous work or way of approaching the subject.

    Primary sources are instant, direct, authentic information about a subject written directly by people with the same connection. The primary sources could comprise:

    • Legal texts and other legal documents that are original.
    • Journalists’ reports from reporters who have witnessed or quoted someone who saw the event.
    • Letters, diaries, speeches, and other interviews. Participants wrote or said.
    • Initial research.
    • Survey data and datasets, for example, census and economic data,
    • Video, photographs, or audio that captures events.
    • Raw Data
      Secondary Sources

    Secondary Sources are just one step away from the primary sources, even though they typically quote or utilize them. They may cover the same issue but add a level of analysis and interpretation. The secondary sources comprise:

    • A majority of the books are on topics.
    • Interpretation or analysis of the data.
    • Other articles or research papers on the subject, particularly from people who are not directly involved.
    • Documentaries (though they usually contain photographs or video segments that could be classified as primary sources).

    When is a Primary Source a Secondary Source?

    What qualifies as a primary or secondary source typically will depend on the topic and its usage.

    The biology textbook is classified as a secondary resource within the realm of biology since it describes and interprets sciences but does not make any unique contribution to the field.

    In contrast, if the topic is educational science and the background of textbooks, books are an excellent source to examine how they’ve evolved.


    Information is derived from many different objects. However, this classification method is designed for sources referred to as symbolic sources. They aim to convey information to a person. The most common symbols include documents including notes, letters, and other documents; however, they do not include, like, for instance, pieces of broken pottery or scraps of food retrieved from a middle-sized pond, regardless of how much data can be gleaned from an old trash pile or the amount of information that is available from a document written. [8]

    A variety of sources are primary or secondary according to the context in the context in which they’re used. Additionally, the distinction between secondary and primary sources can be subjective and based on context,[9which means that exact definitions can be challenging to come up with in the case of a 10-page essay; if a historical text analyzes older documents with an entirely new conclusion about history and is deemed to be the primary source to conclude, yet an additional source of details found in ancient manuscripts. Some other instances in the case of a source that could be primary and secondary could be an obituary or a review of several issues of a journal that can count the number of articles published on specific topics. [12]

    What is taken as primary or secondary within the context of a particular situation can change according to the subject’s present condition. For instance, if a document refers to an earlier letter that was not discovered, it could be classified as “primary” because it’s the item closest to the source. However, if the letter is found later, it could be deemed “secondary.” [14]

    The attempts to model or map scientific or scholarly communication require the concepts of the primary and secondary and additional “levels.” A model that can be used can be described as the UNISIST model for information dissemination. In this model, the concepts are defined concerning one another, and acceptance of this method of definition of the concepts is linked to accepting the model.

    Other modern languages also have more than one word in place of the English term “source.” Germany typically utilizes Sekundarliteratur (“secondary literature”) as a secondary source to find historical data and leaves Sekundarquelle (“secondary source”) to historiography. Sekundarquelle are sources that can provide information about an undiscovered Primarquelle (“primary sources”), for instance, letters quoting minutes that have been deemed not to be, so they are inaccessible to historians.

    Technology, science, and medicine

    It is generally accepted that secondary literature within science can be described as “secondary literature” [15] or be self-described as a review article or meta-analysis.

    Primarily, primary source materials are identified as “original research papers written by scientists who did the study.” A prime illustration of material from a primary source includes the purpose, methods, and Results parts of a research paper (IMRAD style) in a journal of science written by the author who conducted the research. For some areas, the secondary sources could comprise a summary of research in the introduction to the scientific paper, a description of what’s available about the illness or its treatment in an article in the reference publication, or a summary written to analyze the public research. The survey of earlier work done within the area within a first peer-reviewed source is a secondary data source. This permits secondary sources of the latest field findings with full-length review articles yet to be released.

    The book review, which contains reviews by reviewers on the book’s content, is the primary source for the reviewer’s view and an additional source of information about the book’s content. An overview of the text contained in reviews is a different source.

    Science of information and libraries

    In the library and information science field, Secondary sources are typically considered to provide an overview or add information on primary sources within the context of a particular concept or information being studied. [1][2]


    The most significant use of secondary sources within the field of mathematics is to make complex mathematical ideas and their proofs from primary sources easier for people who need to become more familiar with them. In other disciplines, tertiary sources can serve as an introduction function.

    Humanities and the past

    Secondary sources for history and humanities typically refer to scholarly publications or journals in the eyes of an interpreter who is later and especially a more recent scholar. Humanities scholars consider a peer-reviewed article to be a second source. Delineation of sources into primary or secondary sources first came into play within the historiography field when historians tried to determine and categorize the historical writing sources. When writing for scholarly purposes, one crucial goal in separating seeds is determining the reliability and independence of the authorities. When writing authentic educational writing, historians rely on primary sources and interpret them in the context of academic theories. [21]

    As per the Rankean model established in German research at the turn of the 19th Century, historians rely on archives from primary sources. Most undergraduate research projects depend upon secondary sources and a few snippets from primary sources. [23]

    Recognizing secondary sources

    The secondary sources were written by someone who didn’t have direct experience or participated in the circumstances or events you’re studying. In the case of a historical research project, the most common secondary sources are academic books and papers.

    Secondary sources interpret and evaluate primary sources. They are usually separated by a few steps from the actual event. Secondary sources could contain photos, quotes, or even graphics from primary sources.

    Some secondary sources are Textbooks, history articles, journal articles, commentaries, critiques, and encyclopedias.

    Some examples of secondary sources are:

    • An academic article on bathing and water in Mexico City, 1850-1920
    • The book is about the psychological impacts of WWI
    • A new U.S. government document examining the activities on behalf of African Americans at two Manhattan Project locations
    • An NPR piece about race and vaccination skepticism
    • Secondary sources in a historical research project tend to be research papers and books; however, as you will discover from this list, there are many other possibilities.

    Find Secondary Sources

    History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (Harvard Login) (1975to ) includes an index of the books and book chapters. It also includes journal articles. A few social science materials are in the index.

    HSTM can be described as an amalgamation of 4 distinct indexes with four express subject terms; you should examine the results of keyword searches to ensure you are familiar with the appropriate topics for each of the possible four databases. In this instance, for example, the Wellcome Bibliography employs “Contraception.” However, Isis’s Current Bibliography uses “Birth control.” Isis Current Bibliography uses “Birth control”.
    Suppose you’d like to restrict the range of your research to a specific period. In that case, you can use one of the following phrases in the Search box Antiquity (or Ancient or Ancient “Greek as well as Roman” — “Middle the Ages” or”medieval 13th century to 14th Century to 15th century-16th Century – 17th century 18th century, the 19th Century through the 20th Century.
    Further information regarding how to use this complicated database.
    ISISCB Bibliographic Resources in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine provides to the Isis Current Bibliography. The search results go back as far as 1970. Also, it looks at the cumulative bibliographies of ISIS (1913-1975). Search ISISCB Explore

    What is the difference?

    Evidence or information sources can be classified into three categories: primary, second, or tertiary materials. They are ranked depending on the origin of the information and the closeness of the source or the source. The reader is informed about whether the writer reports information directly from the start or relays information based on the experience and views of others, which is thought to be secondhand. Determining whether an information source is primary rather than secondary or tertiary could be challenging. Here is an overview of the three kinds of data and illustrations to assist you in making an informed decision.

    Primary Sources

    They are documents of evidence or events in the form they were first recorded or even occurred with no interpretation or comment. The information or sources upon which research studies are built are displayed for the first time. The primary sources present original ideas, report on the latest findings, or provide new details.

    Primary sources examples:

    Dissertations, theses, academic journal articles (research grounded), some reports of the federal government conferences, symposiums, and other proceedings, original art poetry, images, speech notes, letters, diaries, personal narratives, interviews, autobiographies, and correspondence.

    Secondary Sources

    These resources provide some analysis or even a recapitulation of the primary sources. They typically attempt to define or clarify primary sources. They are usually works that summarize, explain the meaning, organize, or offer value to a head.

    Examples of Secondary Sources:

    Textbooks, edited work publications, and books that analyze or discuss the research results, history of biographies and biographies. Literary criticism and analysis, critiques of legislation and law, Political studies and comments.

    Tertiary Sources

    They are the sources used to organize, abstract, index, and compile various other sources. Certain reference books and other textbooks are tertiary because they primarily aim to summarize, list, or repackage concepts and other data. The majority of tertiary sources need to be acknowledged by a specific writer.

    What is the best way to utilize a second source

    Even though they aren’t primary sources, secondary sources must be cited correctly in research writing. Even if you rephrase an additional source, you must acknowledge it instead of taking it in word for word to prevent plagiarism.

    The method you use to cite secondary sources depends on the style guide you’re following. The three most popular guidelines for academics include MLA, APA, and Chicago. Each style guide has specific guidelines and rules for citing every kind of source, such as PDFs, websites, speeches, and television shows. Remember to cite your sources in both the text and at the end of the bibliography.

    Although all three are considered equal, consult the requirements of your course or assignment to determine which is the most preferred.

    Secondary Source Examples

    Following is a brief list of secondary sources, examples, and explanations of the bases that their authors rely on:

    Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes is a work composed by several Native American authors using primary and secondary sources. This book focuses on the impact that The Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery had on the lives of Native American people by using stories from both groups. The authors frequently quote directly from the journals Lewis, Clark, and others initially maintained in their team.
    This documentary, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, made by the historian Henry Lewis Gates Jr., has been created using primary source material, including journals and secondary source analyses by historians. The series focuses on the historical life experiences of African Americans since they first came to America; Gates uses extensive sources to provide the reader with a thorough background of the incidents and their historical, political, and economic contexts within America.
    The series is called Someone Knows Something. It’s an online series by journalist David Ridgen for the CBC. Ridgen heavily relies on primary sources to illuminate details surrounding the crime he is investigating; he employs the government’s documents, eyewitness conversations, and photos to solve the mysteries of the past.

    Lesson Summary

    Secondary sources are the work of those who were not present at the events that they reported firsthand. Secondary sources are developed by publishers, authors, or journalists who use additional secondary and primary sources. Creating the secondary source aims to bring worth to existing sources. Exist. High-quality secondary sources must be able to synthesize, analyze, or interpret sources from the past to create better discussion on the subject of debate. The most common secondary sources are textbooks, academic research papers, documentaries, podcasts, non-fiction, and essays. Like any other source, it’s essential to scrutinize secondary sources to ensure they provide value to other sources rather than duplicated. To guarantee more excellent accuracy in research, scientists can select the most recent secondary sources, which will give them the most current data available. Secondary sources could contain essential data that is not found in other sources. However, they must inform research with other top-quality secondary and primary sources.

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