Answered By: Robert Fitzpatrick
Last Updated: Nov 12, 2014     Views: 55

Primary Sources and Secondary Sources

Most often, primary sources are the best choice for research. A primary source is one written by the person who conducted the original research, who recorded and assessed the empirical data in a study.

For example, imagine that a group of scientists notices that the population of southern France has a lower incidence of heart disease. They also notice that this population has a diet high in red wine and cheese. In order to determine if there is a connection between this diet and good health, they conduct a formal study. They draw conclusions based on their research. They believe their research will be valuable information to others in the medical field, so they submit the article to The Journal of the American Medical Association for publication consideration. This article would be a primary source, because the people who did the research wrote the article. Primary, in this example, means first-hand.

As you would imagine, news of the health benefits of a diet promoting red wine and cheese might be of interest to lots of people. So a popular magazine like Newsweek would find it profitable to report a summary of the "wine and cheese diet" to the general public. They wouldn't reprint the same article as it appeared in The Journal of the American Medical Association. For one thing, most of the general public wouldn't understand the article, because the style and language used are intended for other medical professionals. The journalist assigned to write this article for Newsweek would probably be a medical specialist who would read the original, or primary article, and then write an article that would be more easily understood by the general public. The article as it appears in Newsweek would be considered a secondary source, because it summarizes the original information from the primary source.