Primary vs. Secondary
Definitions | Searching | Examples
- Primary Sources are original materials such as autobiographies, poems, diaries, documents, research articles, original data, or an original creation such as a piece of art.*
- Secondary Sources describe, explain or interpret primary sources. These include literature criticism, biographies, books about a topic, reviews, encyclopedias and dictionaries.
Searching for these materials can be done by subject, name or keyword in books, articles or on the web. Please consult the Library Homepage at www.bergen.edu/library for access to these sources. The librarians at the Reference Desk are available to help with search strategies.
*Note: Reprinted primary source material is usually acceptable because the original document (i.e. Declaration of Independence) or the original piece of art (a painting by Picasso) is not available. In this case a book of documents in American history, or an art encyclopedia, would reprint the required materials which are the primary source, while the commentary on them would be the secondary source. If you are not sure, ask your instructor.
|painting or object of art
||article reviewing or criticizing the art|
|personal diary or letters
||book about the person or event|
|treaty (government document)
||essay interpreting the document|
|poem, novel, short story, etc.
||literary criticism of the work|
|firsthand observer accounts of event
||report on event years later|
|play, film, television show, performance
||biography of the writer|
|speech given by a person
||commentary on the speech|
|research report by researchers
||interpretation of the research|
||explanation of photographs|
Last updated: 03 Aug 05,JGC
Content reviewed: July 2008, JGC