This is the "Primary" page of the "Primary, secondary and tertiary sources" guide.
Alternate Page for Screenreader Users
Skip to Page Navigation
Skip to Page Content

Primary, secondary and tertiary sources   Tags: primary, publications, resources, secondary, tertiary  

Last Updated: Oct 28, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Primary Print Page

Primary sources

There are a number of different definitions for primary literature. These can vary according to the academic discipline (ie. science or humanities). In brief:

These are original materials which have not been filtered through interpretation, condensation, or, often, even evaluation by a second party; for example journal articles, monographs, reports, patents, theses, diaries, letters, photographs, poems.


Some definitions of primary sources:

  • Primary sources are original materials on which other research is based

  • They are usually the first formal appearance of results in the print or electronic literature (for example, the first publication of the results of scientific investigations is a primary source.)

  • They present information in its original form, neither interpreted nor condensed nor evaluated by other writers.

  • They are from the time period (for example, something written close to when what it is recording happened is likely to be a primary source.)

  • Primary sources present original thinking, report on discoveries, or share new information.


Examples of Primary Sources

  • scientific journal articles reporting experimental research results

  • proceedings of Meetings, Conferences and Symposia.

  • technical reports

  • dissertations or theses (may also be secondary)

  • patents

  • sets of data, such as census statistics

  • works of literature (such as poems and fiction)

  • diaries

  • autobiographies

  • interviews, surveys and fieldwork

  • letters and correspondence

  • speeches

  • newspaper articles (may also be secondary)

  • government documents

  • photographs and works of art

  • original documents (such as birth certificate or trial transcripts)

  • Internet communications on email, listservs, and newsgroups


Copyright © James Cook University. All rights reserved. ABN 46253211955

Member of Innovative Research Universities Australia

Feedback |  Terms of use |  Privacy statement |  CRICOS Provider Code:00117J


Loading  Loading...