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SPA 202/SPA 301: Primary and Secondary Resources

Primary and Secondary Resources

What is a primary resource?
Primary sources allow researchers to get as close as possible to original ideas, events and empirical studies as possible. Such sources may include expositions of creative ideas, first hand or contemporary accounts of events.  

Examples include novels, plays, poems, works of art, popular culture diaries, narratives, films,  interviews, autobiographies, memoirs, speeches government documents, patents data sets, technical reports, and experimental research results.

What is a secondary resource?
Secondary sources analyze, review or restate information in primary resources or other secondary resources. Even sources presenting facts or descriptions about events are secondary unless they are based on direct participation or observation. Moreover, secondary sources often rely on other secondary sources and standard disciplinary methods to reach results, and they provide the principle sources of analysis about primary sources.

Examples include biographies, review articles and literature reviews, scholarly articles that do not present new experimental research results historical studies.

Annotated Bibliography. Reference the source in your chose citation manual style. Briefly summarize the source and assess or evaluate it and its usefulness for your project.

Analysis – to understand all the component of a text or other source in other words it is a “dissection”.

Who wrote this? Are they qualified to make these claims? What do/can I know about them? Is it a scholarly or popular source?

When was it published? How does it relate to your topic?

Are the claims made in the source supported by others? Are they cited? How do they contrast or conflict with what you have already found?


Who is your audience? What implications might that have on the content, style etc.? 

Point of View

What is the perspective of the author or publication? How is this expressed? Objectively or subjectively? Both?


Nothing takes place in a vacuum. Explain how or why something was created.

Thesis topic- this is your main argument or question you are posing and answering with scholarly contextual facts (and point of view).

Abstract – In your paper or presentation, you present (no more than a paragraph or two) the summation of the topic you will be discussing in detail.

  • Be a critical thinker.
  • Take mental leaps.
  • Make sure your facts are correct.
  • Nothing takes place in a vacuum – what is the context?
  • Write and speak with clarity & knowledge and avoid jargon and being wordy or “fancy”. If you know and understand the issue, it is easy to explain it.
  • Cite or in text reference your sources, and check your spelling.

OWL- Purdue Writing Lab - click on site map to find citation manuals online, help getting started and most everything that will help you become a better researcher and writer.