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Career Resources: Understanding Sources

Primary & Secondary Source

What is a Primary Source?

Depending on the general subject area or discipline of your research, primary sources may be a major focus. Primary sources take different forms depending on the discipline. In literature, a primary source is the novel, short story, poem, etc. Primary sources in history include laws, letters, oral histories, diaries, and newspaper articles on events. In science, primary sources include reports of original research. Primary sources tend to stand on their own and be firsthand observations of an event.

What is a Secondary Source?

A secondary source is one which analyzes, critiques, reviews or explains a primary source. They are often authored by people who were not present when the event occurred or the person under study was alive. Many are written by scholars who have carefully studied the primary source and have drawn their own conclusions from it.


An original research article written by the same person conducting the experiment is an example of which kind of source?
Primary Source: 2 votes (100%)
Secondary Source: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 2
A biography on the life of Anne Frank based on her diary is an example of which kind of source?
Primary Source: 1 votes (50%)
Secondary Source: 1 votes (50%)
Total Votes: 2

LibGuide Resources:

Evaluation Strategies

The CRAAP Test

Currency: The timeliness of the information.

  • When was the information published or posted?

  • Has the information been revised or updated?

  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?

  • Are the links functional?

Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?

  • Who is the intended audience?

  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?

  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is the one you will use?

  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

Authority: The source of the information.

  • Who is the author / publisher / source / sponsor?

  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?

  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?

  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?

  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source (examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net)?

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.

  • Where does the information come from?

  • Is the information supported by evidence?

  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?

  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?

  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?

  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

Purpose: The reason the information exists.

  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?

  • Do the authors / sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?

  • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?

  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?

  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?


from the Meriam Library at California State University, Chico, Is this source or information good?

Types of Internet Sites:



Non-Profit | Advocacy


Business | Marketing


.gov, .mil






Government: federal, state, and local

Educational Institutions

Non-Profit Organizations

Newspapers, News Organizations


Restricted or Open








Mostly high

Can vary

Can vary




Can vary

Can vary





Usually low

Typically high




Library Guides: