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Research Skills: Primary versus Secondary Sources

A step-by-step approach to ensure that you possess the key skills required to find, retrieve and evaluate information on your research topic.

Primary Sources

Primary sources are original documents or the first-hand accounts of an event and can include autobiographies, interviews, original artworks, original research and results from experiments or case studies, etc.

Using primary sources as supporting evidence will always allow you to build a strong case for your hypothesis as there is nothing better than original authentic content.

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources usually comment on, interpret or discuss primary sources, thus providing an analysis of the original source.

These include biographies, books and book reviews, newspaper articles that are not eye-witness accounts, and articles in academic journals which evaluate original research, etc.

Examples of Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary Source

Secondary Source

President Zuma's State of the Nation Address

Newspaper articles analysing and criticising the address

Long Walk to Freedom: the autobiography of Nelson Mandela written by Nelson Mandela and therefore in his own words

Biographies of Nelson Mandela written by other authors

Article by Michael Porter on the Five Forces Model

Articles by other authors criticising the Five Forces Model by Michael Porter

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

A criticism and interpretation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream by Stephen Marx