Secondary sources describe, summarize, or discuss information or details originally presented in another source; meaning the author, in most cases, did not participate in the event. This type of source is written for a broad audience and will include definitions of discipline specific terms, history relating to the topic, significant theories and principles, and summaries of major studies/events as related to the topic. Use secondary sources to obtain an overview of a topic and/or identify primary resources. Refrain from including such resources in an annotated bibliography for doctoral level work unless there is a good reason.
Examples of a secondary source are:
- Publications such as textbooks, magazine articles, book reviews, commentaries, encyclopedias, almanacs
Locate secondary resources in NCU Library within the following databases:
- Annual Reviews (scholarly article reviews)
- Credo Reference (encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks & more)
- Ebook Central (ebooks)
- ProQuest (book reviews, bibliographies, literature reviews & more )
- SAGE Reference Methods, SAGE Knowledge & SAGE Navigator (handbooks, encyclopedias, major works, debates & more)
- Most other Library databases include secondary sources.
For some research projects you may be required to use primary sources. How can you identify these?
A primary source provides direct or firsthand evidence about an event, object, person, or work of art. Primary sources include historical and legal documents, eyewitness accounts, results of experiments, statistical data, pieces of creative writing, audio and video recordings, speeches, and art objects. Interviews, surveys, fieldwork, and Internet communications via email, blogs, listservs, and newsgroups are also primary sources. In the natural and social sciences, primary sources are often empirical studies—research where an experiment was performed or a direct observation was made. The results of empirical studies are typically found in scholarly articles or papers delivered at conferences.
Secondary sources describe, discuss, interpret, comment upon, analyze, evaluate, summarize, and process primary sources. Secondary source materials can be articles in newspapers or popular magazines, book or movie reviews, or articles found in scholarly journals that discuss or evaluate someone else's original research.