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ANTHR 102 - Cultural Anthropology - Sinervo

Use this guide to help you succeed in your ANTHR 102 course

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 sources are original materials that were created firsthand; they have not been run through the filter of interpretation.

Because primary sources are the documents or artifacts closest to the topic of investigation, they are a great way to gain insight into and an understanding of an event or topic. Often they are created during the time period that is being studied but they can also be produced later by eyewitnesses or participants.

You may find primary sources in their original format (usually in an archive) or reproduced in a variety of ways: books, microfilm, digital, etc.

primary source image

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
  • Laws (constitutions, statutes, regulations, and court cases)

For more information and help with finding Primary Sources, check out our Find Primary Sources research guide.


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:

  • Analysis & Interpretations of Original Research (reported in magazines)
  • Biographies
  • Books
  • Commentaries
  • Dissertations
  • Indexes, Abstracts, Bibliographies (used to locate primary & secondary sources)
  • Journal Articles


You'll use the MJC Library Catalog, library databases, and the Web to find secondary sources.

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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