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What is a primary source?

Primary sources are uninterpreted, original, or new materials—e.g. an activist gave a speech, a scientist conducted original research, a student drew original conclusions from others’ works, an artist created a piece of artwork, or your grandmother wrote an autobiography. Primary sources are first-hand, uninterpreted experiences. They are created by witnesses or participants of an event, except for historical research.

For more information, see Primary vs. Secondary Sources

What is a primary source in psychology?

Primary sources in the field of psychology present new information or discoveries. They are usually written at the time research is occurring or shortly after it is completed.

Characteristics of primary sources in psychology:

  • They are written accounts of original or empirical research, study, or experimentation conducted by the author(s) of the resource.
  • They are written accounts of primary research and are typically published in scholarly, peer-reviewed, journals, and are often published by professional associations or academic institutions.
  • They are often research articles and generally contain standard components, and follow a specific format or pattern.
    • Typically they include an abstract, a methods section, discussion, a conclusion and a bibliography.
  • They can be found by looking for clues within the article.
    • Read the abstract of an article and look for statements like:
      • The research we conducted shows . . .
      • The aim of our study was . . .
      • We looked at two groups of children . . .
      • Our research concluded that . . .

For more information, see Psychology Resources: Primary Sources from Davis Library at the University of Rio Grande

How do I find a primary source in psychology?

Use the library database PsycINFO to find empirical studies (aka primary sources). Look for the methodology field of the record to see if the article in question is an Empirical Study. You can also use Advanced Search to search exclusively for Empirical Studies (go to Methodology menu and select EMPIRICAL STUDY).

How to find a primary source in PsycINFO

Source Note

Content adapted from Psychology Resources: Primary Sources from the Davis Library at the University of Rio Grande.