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Primary and Secondary Sources

This guide will explain what primary and secondary sources are and how to find them.


Example for Biology:

Primary Source: A scholarly article whose authors studied orangutan communication.

Russon, Anne and Kristin Andrews. “Orangutan Pantomine: Elaborating the Message.” Biology Letters 7 (2011): 627-630.

Secondary Source: A blog post describing a study about how orangutans communicate.

“Orangutan Gestures Have Specific Intentional Meanings.”, June 18, 2010. 


Example for Chemistry:

Primary Source: A research article by a Southern chemistry professor!

Andrew G. Karatjas and Edwin Vedejs. “Formation of Pinacol Boronate Esters via Pyridine Iodoborane Hydroboration.” The Journal of Organic Chemistry 73, no. 23 (2008): 9508-9510.

Secondary Source: An article from a website discussing the cutting edge developments in the world of chemistry in 2012.

"Cutting Edge Chemistry in 2012." Royal Society of Chemistry, December 20, 2012.

Earth Science

Example for Earth Science: 

Primary Source: A scholarly article about meteors.

Jopek, T. J. "Meteoroid Streams and Their Parent Bodies.” Journal of the Italian Astronomical Society 82 (2011): 310-320.

Secondary Source: A CNN blog post about a meteor shower.

Quadrantid Meteor Shower to Light Up Night Sky.”, January 2, 2012.

Environmental, Geography and Marine Science

Example for Environmental, Geography and Marine Science:

Primary Source: Research study of the impact of microbes on oil during the BP oil leak

Edwards, Bethanie R., et al.  “Rapid microbial respiration of oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill in offshore surface waters of the Gulf of Mexico.” Environmental Research Letters 6 (2011): 1-9.

Secondary Source: Blog post about the gulf oil spill and recovery.

Woollacott, Emma. “Microbes ate Gulf oil- really fast. TGDaily, August 2, 2011.


Example for Mathematics:

Primary Source: A scholarly research study that looked at the effectiveness of digital technologies for teaching math to second-language learners.

Freeman, Barbara. “Using digital technologies to redress inequities for English language learners in the English speaking mathematics classroom.” Computers & Education 59, no. 1 (2012: 50–62.

Secondary Source: A newspaper article about bilingual children learning math through computer games.

Zarnow, Teryl. A penguin can teach math. Orange County Register, Jan. 23, 2013.


Example from Physics:

Primary Source: Research article on nanotechnology relating to delivery of drugs to tumors

Mitra, Rajenda N., et al. “An activatable multimodal/multifunctional nanoprobe for direct imaging of intracellular drug delivery.” Biomaterials 33 (2012): 1500-1508.

Secondary Source: A news item about the research on a science blog.

“Nanotechnology May Speed Up Drug Testing.” Science Daily, January 6, 2012.