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UGS 302: Latinx Males in K-12 and Higher Education / Campos

Primary vs. Secondary Resources - Definitions

What are they, when do I use them?

Primary sources are produced by participants or direct observers of an event or time period. These sources may be recorded during the event or later on, by a participant reflecting upon the event.

Why would I use them?

Primary sources offer a first-hand or eyewitness account of a situation that is unfiltered by interpretation.

What are some examples?

Personal materials, including letters, diaries, interviews, memoirs, autobiographies and oral histories
Government documents
Legal documents
Public opinion polls
Artifacts, including photos, paintings, drawings, etc.

How should I use them in my research?

To analyze primary sources, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is the creator and what was their relationship to the event or issue?
  • How neutral was the creator? What biases or interests might have influenced how the source was created?
  • Can the source be substantiated by outside evidence? Can you confirm what the creator is saying?

Is Primary Research the same thing as a primary source?

  • Primary research is a term used in the sciences and social sciences to describe an experiment, a study or a survey that you designed yourself and collected data from. (ex. you wrote a survey, chose the population to survey, administered the survey and gathered the data for your analysis)

Secondary sources are interpretations and evaluations of primary sources. They are also research and analysis of data written by scholars.

Where are some examples?

  • Journal articles
  • Books

How should I use them in my research?

Secondary sources are useful when you need an expert’s or scholar’s interpretation of a topic. This individual has spent her career researching a topic or question and interpreting, analyzing and contextualizing the data around it. 

You may also see the term Secondary Data Analysis. This describes the practice of using an existing dataset (likely one you couldn't gather on your own, such as census data or market research) and analyzing that data for your own research purposes (ex. learning how many students in Texas are enrolled in free or reduced lunch programs - data the state gathers).

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