What is the difference between primary and secondary sources?

The main difference between primary and secondary sources is that primary sources are the raw information or first-hand knowledge you gather in research, while secondary sources are sources that interpret or analyze the information from primary sources.

Both primary and secondary sources are important in a research study . Primary sources are the main subject of analysis, while secondary sources involve the interpretation or analysis of the information in primary sources by others. For example, when conducting a World War I research study, the journal entries of an army general can be used as the primary source, while a book written by a professor on World War I can be used as the secondary source.

Key areas covered

1. What are primary sources - definition, functions, examples 2. What are secondary sources - definition, functions, examples 3. Difference between primary and secondary sources - comparison of the main differences

key terms

Primary sources, secondary sources Difference Between Primary and Secondary Sources - Comparative Summary

What are primary sources?

Primary sources are the raw information or first-hand evidence you gather in the research. In any research study, it is the primary source that gives you direct evidence of the events or phenomena you are investigating. These can be interview transcripts, survey results, official documents, works of art or statistical data. This can be quantitative or qualitative data . They are usually the main objects of analysis. For example, if you are doing research on the Shakespeare language, Shakespeare-authored literary works are your primary source. When studying the spread of a particular disease, your primary sources may include medical statistical data, interviews with medical officials and patients, laboratory reports, etc.

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

When investigating a historical event, you may not be able to access direct evidence because the people involved are no longer alive. You can, however, fall back on the sources produced by witnesses at the time - for example photos, video recordings, letters, diary entries and newspaper reports at the time of the event.

What are secondary sources?

Secondary sources are sources that interpret or analyze information from primary sources. Hence, they are closely related to primary sources. These sources often describe, generalize, and synthesize primary sources. Some examples are magazine articles , reference books, textbooks, encyclopedias, documentaries, and academic papers. In addition, synopses, descriptions or reviews of artistic works are examples of secondary sources.

Compare primary and secondary sources

When we cite secondary sources in a research study, we usually don't analyze them directly. But we use them to support our arguments, formulate new theories, or argue against existing information in the field. In other words, we build our own theories or arguments about the primary sources using the secondary sources. Secondary sources help us collect information and draw conclusions about primary sources.

Difference Between Primary and Secondary Sources

definition

Primary sources are the raw information or first-hand evidence you gather in research, while secondary sources are sources that interpret or analyze the information from primary sources.

information

While primary sources provide us with direct, first-hand information, secondary sources are interpretations of that information by other people.

function

Primary sources are the main object of analysis of a research study, while secondary sources describe, interpret, generalize, or synthesize primary sources.

objectivity

Sometimes primary sources can be subjective and personal, as a person's account of an incident can be colored by their views and experiences. However, secondary sources tend to be more objective.

Examples

Interview transcripts, survey results, official documents, works of art, photographs, video footage, and diary entries are some examples of primary sources, while journal articles, reference works, textbooks, encyclopedias, documentaries, and academic essays are some examples of secondary sources.

diploma

The main difference between primary and secondary sources is that primary sources are the raw information or first-hand knowledge you gather in research, while secondary sources are sources that interpret or analyze the information from primary sources. Both primary and secondary sources are important in a research study.

Reference:

1. “ What are primary sources? ”UCI Libraries Mobile Site.2. Streefkerk, Raimo. “ Primary and Secondary Sources : Explained with Simple Examples .” Scribbr, March 26, 2021.

Image courtesy:

1. " Primary Sources " by Shonnmharen - Own work (CC BY 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia2. “ Secondary Sources ” By Shonnmharen - Own work (CC BY 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the author: Hasa

Hasa holds a BA in English, French and Translation Studies. She is currently reading for a Masters in English. Her areas of interest include literature, language, linguistics and also food.