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Primary Sources: Non-Historical Primary Sources

Other Kinds of Primary Sources

Most often, the term "primary source" is used in history, to refer to documents primary to a particular historical moment, event, person, etc.  But other disciplines also have their own kind of primary sources! In the social sciences, a primary source would be a peer-reviewed study--specifically, the data from first-hand, original research.  A secondary source would be a textbook, overview of a topic, or Review of Literature paper that evaluates primary sources.  For example: Dr. Keller et al studied the impact of certain kinds of therapy on 188 people with PTSD. The data from their study is a primary source as relates to the topic of PTSD A book on therapy refers to Keller's research. The book is a secondary source. In literature, art, and many of the humanities, a primary source is whatever work of art or literature the scholar is studying. A secondary source is any other source that discusses the given "primary" source, no matter when that source was created.  For example: A scholar is studying the Renaissance poem The Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser.  In this case, The Faerie Queene is the primary source; a letter by Edmund Spenser to his friend about his poem is a secondary source. So is a scholarly paper written recently about The Faerie Queene.

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