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Asian Studies: Overview

Primary Sources vs. Secondary Sources

Primary Sources are immediate, first-hand accounts of a topic, from people who had a direct connection with it. Primary sources can include:

  • Texts of laws and other original documents.

  •  Newspaper reports, by reporters who witnessed an event or who quote people who did.

  •  Speeches, diaries, letters and interviews - what the people involved said or wrote.

  • Original research.

  • Datasets, survey data, such as census or economic statistics.

  • Photographs, video, or audio that capture an event.

  • Raw data.

Secondary Sources are one step removed from primary sources, though they often quote or otherwise use primary sources. They can cover the same topic, but add a layer of interpretation and analysis. Secondary sources can include:

  • Most books about a topic.
  • Analysis or interpretation of data.
  • Scholarly or other articles about a topic, especially by people not directly involved.
  • Documentaries (though they often include photos or video portions that can be considered primary sources).

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