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Difference Between Secondary and Primary Sources

Secondary vs Primary Sources

Research or the search for knowledge or investigation on a subject is needed to establish facts, develop new theories, and solve problems. It is often done through scientific, artistic, and historical methods and is employed to complete a term or research paper or an essay.
It involves the collection and compilation of data that are relevant to the subject of the research. Experiments and observations may be used as well as using creative works and collecting information from primary and secondary sources.

Primary sources are defined as authoritative documents that contain eyewitness accounts or first-hand information on a subject of inquiry such as an event or person. They are materials created by someone who was present at the time and place of the incident. It comes directly from the person or persons who are the sources of the information on the incident or event. People often give first-hand accounts of what happened in the past and give concrete evidence of its existence in the form of documents that are considered primary sources.

Diaries and personal journals are primary sources since they are written by the person who is sharing his or her experiences. Interviews, letters, emails, surveys, debates, and any information that has not been interpreted by other people are primary sources. Works of art such as paintings, photographs, films, and recordings are also primary sources. Additionally, poems, plays, speeches, and published stories of first-hand experiences of the author that are taken directly from the individuals are primary sources.

Secondary sources, on the other hand, are sources that are taken from or written about primary sources. They are second-hand accounts of an event or person that are published oftentimes providing additional information and judgment or interpretation on the subject. They analyze and interpret the information about a primary source and are produced in several copies that can be found in schools, homes, and public libraries. An art review is a secondary source and so are newspaper articles, dictionaries, magazines, encyclopedias, and other reference materials.
Depending on how they are created and used, primary sources can become secondary sources. If an artist creates an artwork that depicts scenes from the past based on primary sources, then his work is a secondary source. If it is used to talk about the artist and his life, then it is a primary source.


1.Primary sources are authoritative documents or creative works that are composed of first-hand information and eyewitness accounts regarding a subject. Secondary sources are documents or creative works that are second-hand accounts or are taken from or are about primary sources.
2.Primary sources come directly from the sources of information while secondary sources come from the analysis and interpretation of people other than the primary source.
3.A primary source can also be a secondary source depending on how it is created and used, but a secondary source cannot be a primary source.
4.Examples of primary sources are diaries, interviews, letters, emails, and speeches while examples of secondary sources are news articles, dictionaries, textbooks, and other reference materials.

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