Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Sign in to OneSearch to access our full range of resources.
Use OneSearch to search for:
- UWA print collection
- journal articles
- exam papers
- newspaper articles
- conference proceedings
- law reports
- music scores
- and more
From Primary to Secondary Sources
With the growth of text analysis, there are some great thematic collections that have been built.
These allow you to explore primary sources within a topic focus area or to find secondary sources based on the text within a primary source.
See this link for more information.
Why Use Secondary Sources?
It is important to locate, read and refer to secondary sources in your writing.
- provide vital background information. Having as much knowledge as possible about the text or event about which you are researching is crucial. Familiarising yourself with what has been written about your topic will allow you to write more knowledgeably,
- inform you as to what others have said so you can avoid repeating ideas that are already out there,
- can be used to support your ideas or to show an alternative view. You can create an argument that shows all points of view.
What are Secondary Sources?
Secondary sources describe, analyse, interpret or draw conclusions from a primary source. Secondary sources are created after the studied event/work took place or the studied work was created. They can therefore take into consideration other events and place a primary source in its historical context. Secondary sources are not evidence but rather commentary on and discussion of evidence.
Scholars generally use the term secondary source to refer to books, sections of edited books, journal articles, encylopedia and dictionary entries, newspaper and magazine reports and so on. This chart shows the distinction between primary and secondary sources:
||Book titled: The Battle of Hastings : sources and interpretations
||Article in Journal of African cultural studies
||Jane Austen novel
||Book title: Jane Austen's Literary Manuscripts: A Study of the Novelist's development through the surviving papers
||Book titled: Philippine cartoons : political caricature of the American era, 1900-1941
Note that science disciplines may define secondary sources differently. This guide addresses the Social Sciences and Humanities definition.
Evaluating Secondary Sources
Evaluation of sources is essential to scholarly research. Consider the following when looking for reliable secondary sources:
- Who is the author? Are they a scholar in the field?
- Was the book/ journal published by a scholarly publisher?
- What is the purpose of the text or motive for writing it?
- Does the writer have an obvious bias?
- Does the book/ article have an extensive bibliography?
- What are the primary sources referred to by the author?
- What secondary sources are used by the author?
- Does the text have citations enabling you to check the author's sources.
For more information on evaluating sources in general and internet sources in particular, look at: