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What are the key differences between primary and secondary sources?

Research is compilation of both primary as well as secondary sources. If researchers lack the knowledge of these two sources and their distinction, they would surely get stuck in knowing how to use them properly.  There are some basic and some intricate differences between the two which should be clear in the mind of the researcher without any ambiguity.

 Primary Sources:

As the name itself indicates, primary research is that research which is conducted at the time when the concerned study is being undertaken and the person who does the primary research is witness to the situation directly. Some of the key sources for primary research can be:

  1. Personal documents of the researcher, such as diaries, novels, email etc.
  2. Various types of documents that come from research studies such as thesis, experiments, data, reports and so on
  3. Original manuscripts or any kind of original documents, maps photographs or newspapers
  4. Movies, work of art or music pieces etc.

They are mostly in use when the researcher is studying a subject related to the past such as history. They bring up the opinion of the people who have a direct link from the past. Though, they come from first hand sources and hence can be called as genuine sources, they have one major concern of biased review as they aren’t anything more than the personal opinion of the author. Researchers who target to use primary sources, must ensure that they first analyse the information thoroughly, to identify and remove any biases if there in the study.

 

Secondary Sources:

 It is the other end of the primary source and has information that can be generalised because it is an evaluation and synthesis of information already existing. Usually the sources for secondary research that we see as getting used are:

  1. Books, textbooks, magazines, encyclopaedias etc.
  2. Documents /pictorials and videos based on history
  3. Bok reviews or peer reviews

Secondary sources have the privilege of making the document easier to understand for the reader as it is usually the generalisation of the content based on the analysis of some primary sources.  But, similar how there is a major drawback that is associated with primary sources, in secondary sources as well, the flip side is that the creator of these secondary sources is not an expert in the field of study and consequently because of narrow exposure to the topic may not be able to create a generalisation that can be trusted completely.

Whenever scholars use secondary sources, they must try to validate the information from other reliable sources before actually taking it as a generalisation

 

 

 

 

One Response to What are the key differences between primary and secondary sources?

  1. Somali July 8, 2016 at 4:30 am #

    Primary Source Example would be Interview, Questionnaire from the sample population.

    Secondary Source Example would be some previous financial records.

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