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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 Anthropology: 

Primary Source: Research article (by a Southern professor!) who studies Incan burials in Peru

Andrushko, Valerie A. and John W. Verano. “Prehistoric Trepanation in the Cuzco Region of Peru: A View Into an Ancient Andean Practice.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 137 (2008): 4-13.

Secondary Source: National Geographic blog post about Dr. Andrushko’s research.

Norris, Scott. “Inca Skull Surgeons were “Highly Skilled,” Study Finds.” National Geographic News, May 12, 2008.


Example for Communication:

Primary Source: A research study that that looks at how people learn to lie more effectively.

Van Bockstaele, B., et al. “Learning to Lie: Effects of Practice on the Cognitive Cost of Lying.” Frontiers in Psychology 3 (2012): 1-8.

Secondary Source: A blog post talking about the research and interviewing other researchers.

Ghose, Tia. “Practice Makes the Perfect Liar.” Discovery News, November 27, 2012.


Example from History: 

Primary Source: A historical document.

Wanted poster for the assassins of Abraham Lincoln

Secondary Source: A book written by a historian about the search for Abraham Lincoln’s killers.

Swanson, James L. Chasing Lincoln’s Killer. New York: Scholastic Press, 2009.


Example from Journalism: 

Primary Source: A research study that looked at why fewer readers are reading newspapers compared to online news sources.

Mersey, Rachel Davis, et al. “Focusing on the Reader Engagement Trumps Satisfaction.” Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly 89 (2012): 695-709.

Secondary Source: A blog post discussing the research study about why users prefer online news sources.

“Newspaper Sales Suffer Due to Lack of Stimulating Content, Study Finds.” Science Daily, September 27, 2012.


Example for Philosophy: 

Primary Source: A scholarly consideration by a bioethicist of motivations for cheating.

Kirkwood, Kenneth. “Defensive Doping: Is there a moral justification for “If you Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em?” Journal of Sport and Social Issues 36 (2012): 223-228.

Secondary Source: An article from that talks about why athletes cheat in sports.

Martinez, M. “Cheating arises from desires, incentives, pressures.”, January 18, 2013.

Political Science

Example for Political Science: 

Primary Source: A research study that looks at the political differences between liberals and conservatives.

Graham J, Nosek BA, Haidt J (2012) “The Moral Stereotypes of Liberals and Conservatives: Exaggeration of Differences across the Political Spectrum.” PLoS ONE 7, no. 12 (2012): e50092.

Secondary Source: A news item that talks about a research study.

Pappas, Stephanie. “Liberals & Conservatives More Alike Than You Think.” LiveScience, December 12, 2012.


Example for Psychology:

Primary Source: A research study about suicide among college students written by the researchers who conducted it

Drum, D. J., Brownson, C., Burton Denmark, A., & Smith, S. E. “New data on the nature of suicidal crises in college students: Shifting the paradigm.” Professional Psychology: Research And Practice 40, no. 3 (2009): 213-222.

Secondary Source: A newspaper article about the research study.

Moore, Abigail Sullivan. “Learning to Listen to Distressed Classmates.” New York Times, April 15, 2011.


Example for Sociology: 

Primary Source: Research article about workplace schedules and health

Moen, Phyllis, Erin L. Kelly, Eric Tranby and Qinlei Huang. “Changing Work, Changing Health: Can Real Work-Time Flexibility Promote Health Behaviors and Well Being?” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 52 (2011): 404-429.

Secondary Source: Blog post about the study

“Fostering Healthier Behaviors Through ROWE.” HREOnline, December 9, 2011.