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FYSEM-110LD: A Landscape of One's Own

What's a primary source?

Primary sources provide direct evidence or first-hand testimony concerning a topic under investigation. Some examples of primary sources are:

CREATIVE WORKS such as poetry, music, art
ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS such as diaries, speeches, letters
RELICS OR ARTIFACTS such as pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings

What about Science?  In the sciences, a primary source is the published result of experimental or observational research. On that note, it's helpful to keep in mind that what's considered to be a primary source varies from discipline to discipline.  When studying literature, primary sources often fall in the creative works category: poems, plays, short stories, novels, works of narrative non-fiction.

What's a secondary source?

Secondary sources offer analysis of primary sources. In the field of literature, some examples might be a book or article that examines or interprets the work or works of an author, explores the history of a literary movement, or a book review. Something to consider when choosing which secondary sources to use is that some may come from popular sources and some from scholarly.

Popular and scholarly secondary sources

Popular sources may be books and articles in newspapers and magazines that are intended for a general audience and that may or may not be written by experts on the topic covered. You'll find many book reviews come from popular sources and, at times, these may be all the analysis you can find for newer and less well-known authors. However, in college-level papers and research projects, secondary analysis from scholarly sources is usually preferred. Scholarly books and journal articles are written by scholars (experts in their field) for other scholars, and the publishers that produce these books and journals use a process called peer review to determine which manuscripts they will publish.  Many of the library's databases provide tools for filtering your limiting your search results to peer-reviewed sources or specifically index only scholarly sources. See The Scholarly Conversation section of the English guide for more information about how to determine if an article or book is from a peer-reviewed publisher.

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