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NURS 5327 Explorations in Nursing Theory and Science

Identifying Primary & Secondary Sources

Primary Sources Secondary Sources
A primary source is the original firsthand information about an event, experiment, concept, or theory usually written by the person who conducted the research, experiment, or proposed the theory.  Primary sources often use words such as "study," "trial," and "experiment" in the title and/or abstract to describe a single objective.  A secondary source is a description of a primary source or sources, which is done to evaluate information about a specific topic, compare and contrast different primary sources, or summarize the results of existing studies. A secondary source may also use a theory as a framework to inform new, original research.  Article titles and abstracts can be more general and inclusive than primary sources because secondary sources synthesize the knowledge and results from one or more primary sources.

Examples of primary sources in nursing:

  • Original research or experiments
  • Prospective studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Clinical trials
  • Surveys
  • Interviews
  • Case studies

Examples of secondary sources in nursing:

  • Encyclopedia entries
  • Meta-analyses
  • Systematic reviews
  • Guidelines
  • Original Research using a Theory as a Framework