Friday, October 1, 2010

Primary and secondary souuces

Primary, Secondary: Who Cares?

(The answer: we do). I often tell my students that there are several levels of "quality" of sources for their papers. The "gold standard" is the peer-reviewed journal article, though there are other good sources for information. Articles from peer-reviewed journals go through an extra level of "vetting,' that is, they are reviewed by experts in the field and accepted or rejected, or the authors are required to make changes to bring the article up to the standards of the journal.

When you read an article and cite what the authors write, you are doing a "primary-source citation." This means that you went to the original source for the information. However, when the authors of the articles you read cite someone else, and you want to cite these other authors too, what do you do? You can either find that original sources (and this is considered the best course of action, for reasons described below) OR use the form for a secondary source citation.

Say you read an article by Smith that cites Lowe and you want to cite the Lowe information too. What you do is use this form:

(Lowe, 1999, as cited in Smith, 2005).
[see page 178 of the APA Manual, 6th edition].

So, why do you need to use this secondary source citation? You need to be clear that you did not read the original source. It is the accepted form and gives proper credit. Your professor wants to know if you are doing this, and how often. In addition, what if Smith made an error in interpreting Lowe? Or what if Smith ignored Lowe's full results? Your writing would reflect this same error or bias. This way, the reader knows that you are simply reporting what Smith believed and stated about Lowe's work.

Too many secondary source citations can be cumbersome to type and read and it shows the reader (your teacher and grader) that you did not consult many primary sources. However, if this is what you did, then you MUST use this format.

1 comment:

  1. Your post is very discribed some techniques to find the best info are really very very important but including me most people don't care about it.And I will do for next times.