Primary Sources are first hand accounts, of events created at or near the time that the event occured.
They typically record the circumstances and actual goings of a specific event. For example, the debates in the House of Commons that lead to the passage of the Bill C-38 the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act would be considered to be primary source.
In contrast, a secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the actual event.
For example, "Budget bill will have 'direct impact on our rights,' says Atleo" from Windspeaker; Jun2012, Vol. 30 Issue 3, p8-8 would be consider to be a Secondary source. It analyzes the debate and legislation and provides an interpretation of the imapct of the legislation on Canada's 1st Nations.
Key characteristics include:
Primary sources can include:
Secondary sources provide you with the capacity bring additional information that helps to clarifiy and add-value to information provided by a primary source.
Secondary source include:
If you are researching a subject that you do not know too much about, doing background reading in a secondary source can introduce you to some of the key primary sources that are relevant to the subject area.
Is the document related to your thesis statement?
Is the information at correct level for your assignment?
Is the information from a scholarly peer-reviewed source?
Who is the author(s)?
Is the author a recognized authority in this field?
What are author's credentials?
Is this author cited by other researchers in this area?
What is the authors affiliation?
Is contact information for the author provided?
Who is the publisher and are they know for publishing information on the subject?
Date of publication?
Is information current and up-to-date?
Is the the research methodology employed by the author provided?
Does the author include a literature review?
Is there a reference list of cited works?
Does the author provide a clearly reasoned argument supported by identifiable logic, facts and data?
Does the author consider alternate interpretations of the evidence?
Does the author appear to have any identifiable bias?
Has the author omitted and relevant information or data that other people writing on the subject have included?
Is the author afflilated with a group, business or orhanization that is selling something?
Where did the author's research funding come from?
Citations & Reference List
Has the author included citations to the information that they have used to create their article?
Does the author provide a Reference List for the citations used in the article?
The public Internet (the Web) holds vast quanitites of information, data and statistics. Not all of it is true, reliable or suitable to be used in an academic research paper or project. Anything or anyone can put content on the Web.
Developing the skills to critically evaluating websites and their content uses the same approach as outlined in Evaluating Primary & Secondary Sources above.
It is always a good idea to start with Internet sources that accessible through the Library's web site. These resources have been selected through a process that ensures that they meet specific academic quality or provide the capacity to filter content in order to remove non-scholarly content when required.
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