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Academic Writing and Referencing Style: Primary vs Secondary Sources

What are Primary and Secondary Sources?

What Are Primary and Secondary Sources?

primary source is a source that you are analyzing as the writer. In other words, there is no mediary between you and the text; you are the one doing the analysis.

Some examples of primary sources:

      - the novel Frankenstein (which you are analyzing for an essay on motherhood in
        Frankenstein )
      - an interview with President Obama (which you are analyzing for an essay on Obama's
        communication patterns)
      - a forum on Doctor Who fan fiction (which you are analyzing for an essay on the rising
        popularity of fan fiction)


secondary source, then, is a source that has also done analysis of the same (or a similar) topic. You will then use this source to discuss how it relates to your argument about the primary source. A secondary source is a mediary between you and the primary source. Secondary sources can also help your credibility as a writer; when you use them in your writing, it shows that you have done research on the topic, and can enter into the conversation on the topic with other writers.

Some examples of secondary sources:

      - a journal article on motherhood in the novel Frankenstein, which you then use to
        discuss Shelley's beliefs on motherhood, and how they may have worked their way
        into her novel
      - a book on speech patterns, which you use to help show how Obama communicates
        with both the interviewer and the audience
      - a book on fan fiction, which you use to discuss fan fiction as a collaborative process