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ENV 150 - Intro to Environmental Science: Source Evaluation

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

  Primary Source Secondary Source
Definition Original materials that have not been filtered through interpretation or evaluation by a second party. Sources that contain commentary on or a discussion about a primary source.
Example Article in scholarly journal reporting research and methodology. Articles or books analyzing and commenting on the results of original research.
Timeline Published first Published second
Format Peer-reviewed (scholarly) journals Newspapers, magazines, books

Example of Primary Source

Example of Secondary Source

Scholarly vs. Popular Sources

  Peer-Reviewed (Scholarly) Source Popular Source
Author Experts/Scholars/Affiliated Researchers


Audience Experts/Scholars/Affiliated Researchers

General Public

Pictures Graphs, Charts Colorful, Photographs, Decorative
Language Complex, Advanced Terms Easy to Follow
Article Length 10+ Pages 1-5 Pages
Article Titles Long & Descriptive Short & Catchy
Citations Many None
Abstract Yes No

Test Yourself: What type of source is this?

Source A

Source B

Levels of Scientific Evidence

Beware Media Bias

AllSides Media Bias Chart