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Anthropology Resources   Tags: anthropology, guide, help, library_services, research, sociology  

A guide to Anthropology resources.
Last Updated: Sep 30, 2014 URL: http://research.auctr.edu/anthropology Print Guide RSS Updates

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Primary vs Secondary

 Identifying Primary and Secondary Sources

A primary source provides direct or firsthand evidence about an event, object, person or work of art. Characteristically, primary sources are contemporary to the events and people described and show minimal or no mediation between the document/artifact and its creator. As to the format, primary source materials can be written and non-written, the latter including sound, picture, and artifact. Examples of primary sources include:
  • personal correspondence and diaries
  • works of art and literature
  • speeches and oral histories
  • audio and video recordings
  • photographs and posters
  • newspaper ads and stories
  • laws and legislative hearings
  • census or demographic records
  • plant and animal specimens
  • coins and tools

Secondary Sources
A secondary source, in contrast, lacks the immediacy of a primary record. As materials produced sometime after an event happened, they contain information that has been interpreted, commented, analyzed or processed in such a way that it no longer conveys the freshness of the original. History textbooks, dictionaries, encyclopedias, interpretive journal articles, and book reviews are all examples of secondary sources. Secondary sources are often based on primary sources.

Primary and Secondary Sources Compared

An example from the printed press serves to further distinguish primary from secondary sources. In writing a narrative of the political turmoil surrounding the 2000 U.S. presidential election, a researcher will likely tap newspaper reports of that time for factual information on the events. The researcher will use these reports as primary sources because they offer direct or firsthand evidence of the events, as they first took place. A column in the Op/Ed section of a newspaper commenting on the election, however, is less likely to serve these purposes. In this case, a columnist’s analysis of the election controversy is considered to be a secondary source, primarily because it is not a close factual account or recording of the events.
Bear in mind, however, that primary and secondary sources are not fixed categories. The use of evidence as a primary or secondary source hinges on the type of research you are conducting. If the researcher of the 2000 presidential election were interested in people’s perceptions of the political and legal electoral controversy, the Op/Ed columns will likely be good primary sources for surveying public opinion of these landmark events.

(Adapted from http://www.libraries.iub.edu/index.php?pageId=5376)


General Background Information

 Cultural Anthropology is the comparative study of human cultures and social processes that influence behavior.

Cover Art
Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology - Alan Barnard; Jonathan Spencer
Call Number: Electronic Book Collection
ISBN: 0203458036
Publication Date: 2002-07-01

Cover Art
Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Social Issues - Michael Shally-Jensen
Call Number: Electronic Book Collection
ISBN: 9780313392054
Publication Date: 2010-12-01

Cover Art
Encyclopedia of Race and Ethnic Studies - Ellis Cashmore
Call Number: Electronic Book Collection
ISBN: 0415286743
Publication Date: 2003-11-04

Cover Art
The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Latin America and the Caribbean - Simon Collier (Editor); Thomas E. Skidmore (Editor); Harold Blakemore (Editor)
Call Number: Educational Resource Center – Main Level (F1406 .C36 1985)
ISBN: 0521413222
Publication Date: 1992-09-25


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