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Doing Research

an introduction to the research process for students working on papers or their extended essay

Primary Sources

"A primary source provides direct or firsthand evidence about an event, object, person, or work of art. Primary sources include historical and legal documents, eyewitness accounts, results of experiments, statistical data, pieces of creative writing, audio and video recordings, speeches, and art objects. Interviews, surveys, fieldwork, and Internet communications via email, blogs, listservs, and newsgroups are also primary sources. In the natural and social sciences, primary sources are often empirical studies—research where an experiment was performed or a direct observation was made. The results of empirical studies are typically found in scholarly articles or papers delivered at conferences."

Ithaca College Library, Primary and Secondary Sources,

Secondary Sources

"Secondary sources describe, discuss, interpret, comment upon, analyze, evaluate, summarize, and process primary sources. Secondary source materials can be articles in newspapers or popular magazines, book or movie reviews, or articles found in scholarly journals that discuss or evaluate someone else's original research."

Ithaca College Library, Primary and Secondary Sources

Tertiary Sources

"Tertiary sources contain information that has been compiled from primary and secondary sources. Tertiary sources include almanacs, chronologies, dictionaries and encyclopedias, directories, guidebooks, indexes, abstracts, manuals, and textbooks."

Ithaca College Library, Primary and Secondary Sources


Primary Source

Secondary Source

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech

Kakutani, Michiko. “The Dream, the Speech and Its Lasting Power.” The New York Times, 28 Aug. 2017, p. A1.

Wilfred Owen's Dulce et Decorum Est poem Quinn, William A. "Multiple Metrics in Wilfred Owen's 'Dulce et Decorum Est'." English Language Notes, vol. 21, no. 2, 1983, pp. 38-41.
[a study published in a peer-reviewed science journal]
Perron, Hervé, et al. “Human endogenous retrovirus (HERV)-W ENV and GAG proteins: Physiological expression in human brain and pathophysiological modulation in multiple sclerosis lesions.” Journal of NeuroVirology, vol. 11, no. 1, 2005, pp. 23–33, doi:10.1080/13550280590901741.
[an article in a magazine that explains the original research study]
Fox, Douglas. "The Insanity VIrus." Discover, June 2010,
Table 1. Crime in the United States by Volume and Rate per 100,000 Inhabitants, 1996-2015. Retrieved from Tucker, Eric, and Lisa Marie Pane. "FBI Data Show Increase in Murder, Violent Crime in 2015." U.S. News and World Report, 26 Sept. 2016,