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College of the Atlantic - Thorndike Library

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Understand Your Sources

Primary vs Secondary Sources

Differentiating Primary from Secondary Sources

When doing research, it is important to be able to distinguish between primary and secondary sources.  Primary sources provide original thoughts, data, and information.  Secondary sources are taking material that has already been presented and are writing about it. 










If you would like some assistance with primary and secondary sources, don't hesitate to contact Trisha or Jane.  Below are some examples of primary and secondary sources in our collections to help you sort through the differences:

Examples of Primary Sources in Thorndike Library:

  • Articles in scholarly jourmals on our journal shelves in the library Reading Room, such as Ecology, Environmental History, Equity & Excellence in Education, and Rhodora.
  • Books of fiction and poetry
  • Scholarly articles in many of our databases, suct as BioOne and JSTOR
  • Original documents found in our database Annals of American History

Examples of Secondary Sources in Thorndike Library:

  • Articles in magazines on our journal shelves in the library Reading Room, such as Time, DownEast, and the Economist
  • Books on history and biographies
  • Credo Reference, a database the searches encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc.