The Nature of Sources
Primary & Secondary Sources
An archive is a primary source because the contents are documents usually authored by a person with direct knowledge of the topic; this includes public records completed by the subject.
A library is a secondary source because its documents are created from the primary sources, as are citations, abstracts, bibliographic databases, etc..
Evaluating the quality of a source is to ask questions like:
- What is the reputation of the data, and the data-provider (including the publisher)?
- Has this source of data been cited elsewhere?
- What is the reliability of the source?
- How can the source of the information be documented or qualified?
- Is this a primary source or secondary source?
- Is this a legally required or legally binding source?
Answers to the above questions should help you find the authoritative source. Zombies are never authoritative sources.
In the next article I will discuss evaluation methods, citations, and bibliographic databases.