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HIST 301: Historian's Craft (Petty, Spring 2024)

What is a secondary source?

A Secondary source is a work written about an event or person after it has taken place. Some examples:

  • Book
  • Academic Article
  • Biography
  • Most websites
  • Media depictions (ex. films)
  • Documentaries
  • Reinactments
  • Monuments

Types of Secondary Sources

In Academe, we are especially interested in a specific type of secondary source: Peer Reviewed Publications.

But what's the difference between scholarly, peer reviewed, popular, or refereed?

Scholarly: A source written by an expert, but not subjected to the peer review process. 
Example: magazine articles (if written by expert), public presentations, reviews, opinion pieces.

Refereed: Academic work that has some level of vetting, usually by an editor or panel. 
Example: Conference papers, journal articles that are approved by an editor but not external reviewers.
NOTE: refereed is often used interchangeably with Peer Reviewed by databases, but it isn't always the same.

Popular: Written for a wide readership. May or may not be written by a subject expert.
Examples: newspaper or magazine, popular press books, websites.

Peer Reviewed: Academic books and articles written by a specialist, reviewed by other experts, and published by an academic press.
Examples: Articles in academic journals, some conference papers, books published  by university presses.