Psychology Subject Guide: Primary & Secondary Sources

Primary Sources

Primary Sources...

  • Provide direct or firsthand evidence about an event, object, person or work of art
  • Are usually written or created during or close to the event or time period being studied
  • Have not been filtered through interpretation or evaluation 
  • Are original materials on which other research is based
  • Can be written or non-written (e.g. sound recordings, photographs, artifacts)
  • Present original thinking, report a discovery, or share new information

Note: Examples of  primary sources may vary depending on the discipline or context.

Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources...

  • Are second-hand accounts written after an event happened
  • Include comments on, interpretation of, or discussions about the original material
  • Are often based on primary sources

Note: Examples of secondary sources may vary depending on the discipline or context.

Examples of a Primary Source & a Secondary Source

Primary Source (journal article):

Harrison, M. A., & Shortall, J. C. (2011). Women and men in love: Who really feels it and says it first? Journal of Social Psychology, 151(6), 727-736. doi:10.1080/00224545.2010.522626

Secondary Source (magazine article):

Birch, J. (2016, Sep). Magic words. Psychology Today, 49, 40-41. Retrieved from