Answered By: Iwanna Book
Last Updated: Nov 16, 2015     Views: 100


The term "primary source" may mean different things in different academic disciplines.

In the sciences, a primary source refers to a published work that meets the following criteria:

  • Reports new scientific discoveries
  • Includes results of experiments
  • Includes results of clinical trials
  • Demonstrates social and political science results
  • Is factual, but not interpretative

In the humanities, primary sources include original works of literature or art or a first-hand account of an event that has not been interpreted by anyone other than its creator. These sources were either created during the time period being studied, or were created at a later date by someone who participated in the events (ex: memoirs). They reflect the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer.

A Secondary Source is any information written ABOUT the primary source text.  Secondary sources also provide interpretation, commentary and analysis, and criticism of an historical event or phenomenon. These events are recounted by people who were not first-hand witnesses of the event (generally at least one step removed from the event).


Updated November 2015

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