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Get Started With Research

Use this guide to become a more skillful researcher. Learn how to develop research questions, choose credible sources, evaluate your sources, cite them correctly, and avoid plagiarism

Primary & Secondary Information

For research projects you will be using two basic types of information: Primary and Secondary. Your instructor will usually tell you what types of information he or she expects you to use for your research.What's the difference between these types?

Primary (Think of this as Firsthand):

Primary information is comprised of original materials that were created first hand. This type of information is from the time period involved and has not been filtered through interpretation. Examples are:

  • Original Research (reported in journals & dissertations)
  • Diaries
  • Interviews (legal proceedings, personal, telephone, email)
  • Letters
  • Original Documents (i.e. birth certificate or a trial transcript)
  • Patents
  • Photographs
  • Proceedings of Meetings, Conferences and Symposia
  • Survey Research (such as market surveys and public opinion polls)
  • Works of Literature

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secondary sourcesSecondary (Think of this as Second Hand):

Secondary information is made up of accounts written after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. Therefore, secondary information interprets and evaluates primary information. Examples are:

  • Biographies
  • Books
  • Commentaries
  • Dissertations
  • Indexes, Abstracts, Bibliographies (used to locate primary & secondary sources)
  • Journal Articles

Popular, Substantive, and Scholarly Sources

Unless otherwise instructed by your teacher, you'll probably want to use a variety sources to help you gain a complete understanding of your topic. Sources of information generally fall within three categories.These categories are  Popular, Substantive, and Scholarly (or Peer Reviewed). To use them skillfully you need to be able to identify them and understand their differences.
 

Types of Information image

 

Watch the brief video below for more information:

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