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Definition:

In conducting research, information collected firsthand from such sources as historical documents, literary texts, artistic works, experiments, surveys, and interviews.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "[Primary sources] provide the 'raw data' that you use first to test the working hypothesis and then as evidence to support your claim. In history, for example, primary sources include documents from the period or person you are studying, objects, maps, even clothing; in literature or philosophy, your main primary source is usually the text you are studying, and your data are the words on the page. In such fields you can rarely write a research paper without using primary sources."
    (Wayne C. Booth et al. The Craft of Research. Univ. of Chicago Press, 2008)


  • Methods of Collecting Primary Data
    "If the information you need is unavailable or hasn't yet been gathered, you'll have to gather it yourself. Four basic methods of collecting primary data are field research, content analysis, survey research, and experiments. Other methods of gathering primary data include historical research, analysis of existing statistics, . . . and various forms of direct observation."
    (H. Dan O'Hair et al. Business Communication: A Framework for Success. South-Western, 2001)


  • Primary Sources and Original Sources
    "The distinction also needs to be made between primary and original sources. It is by no means always necessary, and all too often it is not possible, to deal only with original sources. Printed copies of original sources, provided they have been undertaken with scrupulous care (such as the published letters of the Founding Fathers), are usually an acceptable substitute for their handwritten originals."
    (E. J. Monaghan and D. K. Hartman, "Undertaking Historical Research in Literacy," in Handbook of Reading Research, ed. by P. D. Pearson et al. Erlbaum, 2000)


  • Finding and Accessing Primary Sources
    "This one is entirely dependent on the assignment given and your local resources; but when included, always emphasize quality. Keep in mind . . . that not all primary source materials in a library's collection are necessarily only available electronically. . . . Keep in mind that there are many institutions such as the Library of Congress that make primary source material freely available on the Web."
    (Joel D. Kitchens, Librarians, Historians, and New Opportunities for Discourse. ABC-CLIO, 2012)
Also Known As: primary data
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