Use Primary and Secondary Sources :

Researching Your Topic

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Use Primary and Secondary Sources :

After setting up your research strategy, you can begin collecting material.

Two types of sources will concern you. They are :

  • Primary

  • Secondary

  • Primary sources are those that deal most directly with your topic - reports of eyewitnesses, articles or letters from those directly involved in a situation, fact-finding reports and so on.

    Secondary sources generally comment on and help you to interpret your primary sources.

    In a research paper for a history course, for instance, your primary sources might be newspaper articles or government documents, letters or diary entries written or published during the historical period you are writing about, even photographs taken at the scene. Your secondary sources might be books or articles written by historians who have also consulted those same primary sources. Remember that you need to bring a fresh perspective to those secondary sources.

    In a research paper for a literature course, your primary sources would be the literary texts that you are interpreting or criticizing or the letters or journals of the author whose work you are investigating. Secondary sources would include books, articles, lectures and reviews by literary critics on the subject of your paper. In a scientific research paper, your own observations and experiments might be your primary sources, whereas reports of other scientific investigators on the same or a closely related topic would constitute your secondary sources.

    To continue the section on Researching Your Topic,

    1. Set up a general search strategy

    2. Use primary and secondary sources

    3. Do original research

    4. Make a research outline for using the library and the Web

    5. Find things out for yourself

    6. Be open to serendipity

    7. Take notes

    8. Manage sources and quotations

    9. Manage and evaluate electronic sources

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