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What is a secondary source?

Last Updated: May 11, 2016  |  16 Views

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Secondary sources build upon primary resources by analyzing, interpreting, synthesizing or discussing them.  

Examples would be:

  • books
  • journal articles (that do not provide original research)

A good way to determine whether or not a source you are evaluating is primary or secondary in nature is to ask yourself:

"Is this 'first-hand' information or 'second-hand' information?"

If you said 'first-hand' then it is likely a primary source.  If you said 'second-hand', then it's likely a secondary source. 

However, there is not always such a clear delineation.  A secondary source may also be a primary source, depending on the context its used in.

Some examples:

Primary Source Secondary Source
Newspaper Interview of Gilles Duceppe Newpaper article written post-interview, evaluating Duceppe's comments
Census data collected by Statistics Canada An article using Census data to discuss population trends
Diaries or letters from soldiers during World War II A book about the effects of World War II on soldiers

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