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What is the difference between a primary and secondary source?

asked 2017-06-05 10:50:03 -0500

updated 2017-06-05 11:20:48 -0500

I hear people talk about primary and secondary sources, but what is the difference between the two?

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answered 2017-06-05 11:03:47 -0500

updated 2017-06-05 11:47:35 -0500

A primary source is something that is connected to the topic you are writing about, meaning that it was created by someone who was involved firsthand or is tied to the topic somehow. For example, a letter written by Thomas Jefferson about the Declaration of Independence would be considered a primary source on both Thomas Jefferson, since it was written by the man himself, and the Declaration, as he was directly involved in its creation.

A secondary source is something that was released by an independent party about a topic. An example of this would be a newspaper article or biography about Thomas Jefferson. These are the sources you would use to establish notability for an article, assuming that they go into depth about your chosen topic.

The key here is that the person writing the source should not be directly tied to the topic. For example, if I wrote a news piece about WikiEd and managed to get it published in the New York Times, that would still be seen as a primary source on WikiEd since I work for them. You could use my post to back up some basic details about WikiEd, but it wouldn't be something that could show notability.

If you're editing biomedical related topics this can get a little more tricky, so it's very important for you to read the WikiEd handout on editing medicine topics.

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Asked: 2017-06-05 10:50:03 -0500

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Last updated: Jun 05