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Primary, Secondary & Tertiary Sources: Where to Find Primary Sources

Advertising

For Advertising, a primary source can be advertisements themselves to examine the design and message or advertising campaigns by a company or organization.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.

Accounting, Business Administration, & Finance

For Accounting and Business Administration, primary sources include company's financial documents, company websites, stock information, and other reports.  Keep in mind though that company websites and reports to shareholders can be heavily biased as the company is motivated to show a positive outlook.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.

Art, Art History, & Digital Media

For Art, Art History, & Digital Media, a primary source can be a work of art in any medium, a design, an animation, a video, a website and more. Whatever the medium, the goal is to find the product created by an artist, graphic designer, videographer, animator, or web designer and incorporate it into your final product.  For art history students, another primary source could be the artists' writings, an interview with the artist, or even historical documents from that time period.  See the history box for more information on how to find those.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.

Biology/Biomedical Sciences

A primary source for Biology or Biomedical Sciences is an original research study that has methods, participants/materials, results and a conclusion.  These are published in scholarly/peer-reviewed journals.  Research data can also count as a primary source. But if an article analyzes raw data collected by someone else, it isn't always a primary source.

These can be found in a number of library databases and you can use the article types limit in most databases to limit to primary sources.  Look for these limits:

  • Clinical Trial
  • Study (any one that has study as part of it)
  • Research Article
  • Original Research

If a database doesn't offer article type limits, examine the article structure.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.

Chemistry

A primary source for Chemistry is an original research study that has materials, methods, results and a conclusion.  Chemists conduct the experiment and report the results that they observe.  These are usual published in scholarly/peer reviewed journals.  Data from an experiment can also serve as a primary source.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.

Communication Studies

Communication Studies' primary sources may include news articles, laws, interviews, and more.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.

 

Criminal Justice

Primary sources in criminal justice can take a variety of forms depending upon the assignment you have.  They can include research studies with methods, materials, and results, data collected by criminal justice agencies, government policy, and laws. 

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.

Economics

For Economics, primary sources can include economic philosophy like The Communist Manifesto, economic data, and government documents related to the economy and economic policies.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.

Education

For Education, primary sources can include data from research studies or surveys, education law and policy, and lesson plans and any teaching materials designed by teachers.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.

English/Literature

Most of the time, primary sources for English or Literature classes are the works of literature themselves and it is your job to examine them without outside sources like journal articles or books.  In addition to their fictional writings, authors' letters and journals can also serve as primary sources though they will not always be needed.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.

Environmental Science & Policy

A primary source for Environmental Science includes original research studies that have methods, materials, results and a conclusion usually published in scholarly/peer-reviewed journals, research data, and environmental law and policy. 

Original research studies can be found in a number of library databases and you can use the article types limit in most databases to limit to primary sources.  Look for these limits:

  • Study (any one that has study as part of it)
  • Research Article
  • Original Research

If a database doesn't offer article type limits, examine the article structure.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.

Fashion/Fashion Merchandising

Primary sources for fashion include fashion designers' designs, sketches, and interviews with designers, and more.  Many of these can be accessed in books or in magazines.  For fashion merchandising, they can include fashion companies' financial reports, ad campaigns, and more.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.

History

Primary sources for history can vary widely as what you need will depend upon your topic and the time period you are studying.  Primary sources for history could include personal writings (letters, journals, diaries, blogs, social media posts), newspapers and magazines, books, religious texts, news footage, television, film or audio footage, images, objects, and more.  Sometimes primary source writings are compiled into modern books so limiting by date will not always work.  Sometimes primary sources can only be accessed in person in Archives, museums, or historical societies

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.

Journalism

Primary Sources for journalism include a large variety of examples from court cases, speeches, photographs, audio recordings, and more.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.

Marketing

Primary sources for marketing can include company reports with financial and other data but also customer demographics, polls, and census data.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.

Media Studies

Media Studies' primary sources may include news articles, interviews, and more.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources

Medical Technology & Physician Assistant

A primary source for Medical Technology or Physician Assistants is an original research study that has methods, participants/materials, results and a conclusion.  These are published in scholarly/peer-reviewed journals.  Research data can also count as a primary source. But if an article analyzes raw data collected by someone else, it isn't always a primary source.

These can be found in a number of library databases and you can use the article types limit in most databases to limit to primary sources.  Look for these limits:

  • Clinical Trial
  • Study (any one that has study as part of it)
  • Research Article
  • Case Report/Study

If a database doesn't offer article type limits, examine the article structure.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.

Paralegal/Legal

Primary Sources for paralegal or legal studies include court cases, laws, pending legislation or bills and more.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.

Philosophy

Primary Sources for philosophy include philosophical texts, personal narratives, diaries, speeches and more.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.

Physical Therapy & Athletic Training

A primary source for Physical Therapy or Athletic Training is an original research study that has methods, participants, results and a conclusion.  These are published in scholarly/peer-reviewed journals.  Research data can also count as a primary source. But if an article analyzes raw data collected by someone else, it isn't always a primary source.

These can be found in a number of library databases and you can use the article types limit in most databases to limit to primary sources.  Look for these limits:

  • Clinical Trial
  • Study (any one that has study as part of it)
  • Case Report
  • Original Research

If a database doesn't offer article type limits, examine the article structure.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.

Political Science

Primary sources for political science can include laws, pending legislation, government policy, public opinion polls, voting statistics, and more.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.

Psychology

Psychology's primary sources are typically empirical studies that have methods, materials/participants, results and a conclusion.  They are typically published in scholarly & peer-reviewed sources.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.  They will have limits for primary sources, in the advanced search for them look for a limit for research articles or methodology (then select empirical).

Public Administration

For Public Administration, primary sources may include governmental documents, surveys, news articles, crime reports, and more.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.

Religion

For Religion, primary sources include religious texts, speeches, photographs and more.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.

Social Work

Primary sources in Social Work are typically empirical studies that have methods, materials/participants, results and a conclusion.  They are typically published in scholarly & peer-reviewed sources.  Data can also be a primary source from surveys, government departments, and more.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.  

Sports Communication

Sports Communications' primary sources may include news articles, interviews, recordings of games, announcement transcripts and more.

The resources below are a good starting point to find primary sources.