Primary and Secondary Sources

Trocaire College Libraries

The Basics:

  • Information may be presented from two viewpoints: a primary or secondary source.

  • Knowing the source of the information you are researching can help you make an informed decision on the authority of the person presenting it or the timeliness of the information.

A Primary Source is...

  • An official record of an event which is written or recorded by people present at it.
  • Factual data – not an interpretation of it.

Primary Sources Include...

  • The original published results of a clinical trial, research study or scientific experiment.
  • A live interview or a transcript or recording of it.
  • Videos of an event recorded as it was happening.
  • Notes from a conference or a class.
  • Diaries, letters, or other first person accounts.
  • Autobiographies or first person accounts in books, eBooks and newspaper.
  • Photographs, maps, artwork or other creative works or artifact from a time period.
  • Social Media: Tweets, texts, status updates, original blogs or Reddit AMAs.

A Secondary Source is...

  • An interpretation or analysis of data, a study or a report.
  • A second-hand account of an event.
  • These sources may cite or quote the primary source.

Secondary Sources Include...

  • Most books and eBooks.
  • Criticism and reviews
  • Content re-generators
  • Comment sections
  • Social Media: Pins on Pinterest, re-tweets, shared posts or links to other content.
  • Newspaper articles from outside sources
  • Magazine articles
  • Student research papers
  • Journal articles on previous clinical or scientific work
Any questions, ask a librarian!
Created June 2020