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AES Research: Primary Vs. Secondary


poem / novel / letter / diary
interview / oral history / empirical research article / case study
law / court case / census data / data set / memoir / autobiography / photographs / speeches

Primary Sources

Primary Sources

Primary sources are created by people or organizations directly involved in an issue or event. Primary sources are information before it has been analyzed by scholars, students, and others.

Some examples of primary sources:

  • diaries and letters
  • academic articles presenting original scientific research
  • news reports from the time of the event
  • literature (poems, novels, plays, etc.)
  • fine art (photographs, paintings, sculpture, pottery, music, etc.)
  • official records from a government, judicial court, or company
  • oral histories
  • speeches
  • autobiographies
  • dissertations: while they are considered primary resources, they are NOT considered peer-reviewed



critique / anthology / scholarly review
book / literature review / essay 
analysis of data / biography / political commentary / analysis

Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources analyze and interpret issues and events. Secondary sources, such as scholarly articles, are typically written by experts who study a topic but are not directly involved in events themselves. Also, secondary sources are usually produced some time after an event occurs and may well contain analysis of primary sources.

Some examples of secondary sources:

  • scholarly articles that analyze, review, and/or compare past research
  • news reports or articles looking back at a historical event
  • documentaries
  • biographies
  • encyclopedias
  • textbooks 

TIP: If you are looking at peer-reviewed articles, look at the abstract to verify if is a primary or secondary source! If the title mentions the words: review, it is likely to be secondary.