IRIS 42: Information and Research Instruction Suite for two-year colleges

Primary Research Meets Popular Press

From Primary to Secondary

Ms. Science Editor of the New Arctic Daily (a newpaper) read the primary article. She knew her readers would be interested, but who could understand all the scientific language in the primary article?

So Ms. Science Editor summarized the article and published the easier-to-read version in the Sunday edition of the newspaper. Her article is a secondary source: it's a second-level interpretation of the primary research. The story was so popular that newspapers all over the country picked it up and published it. A couple of weekly magazines also wrote summaries of the research. Those articles are all secondary accounts.

Three years later another biologist wrote a book about arctic wildlife. He included information about the Arctic Singing Frog and Peggy and Dermit's study. That book is another secondary account of their study.

As a general rule in scientific research, there is only one primary source. There can be many secondary sources about the primary source.

Scholarly research journals are the best type of source to use for finding primary research on a topic. Use a periodicals index, like ProQuest or EBSCOhost (or Google Scholar) to locate articles in scholarly journals.


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