How to Identify Primary and Secondary Sources

Whether your source is primary or secondary depends on the research question you are addressing.

For example, Shakespeare’s play, Richard III, would be primary if you are researching Shakespeare, but secondary if you are researching the historical figure, Richard III.

Suppose you want to write about an aspect of the Internet Security Act. Consider the following types of sources: novel/literature, invisible college, government publications, and magazines.

If Your Topic is Use Why?
Constitutionality of the Internet Security Act Government Publications The Constitution and the Internet Security act are primary sources for this topic. These are official records of the law. Secondary sources interpret or analyze the original sources.
Feminist Perspectives on the Internet Security Act Magazines Articles from feminist publications such as Ms. Magazine may provide feminist perspectives on the Act.
Literary Portrayals on Internet Security Issues Novel/Literature Though usually considered secondary sources, novels like Tom Clancy's Air Force: Cybernation illustrate the popular appeal of issues such as internet security.