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  1. #1

    Difference between primary and secondary resources

    I'm a bit confused. I've got about 40 something references for my dissertation, and I've got to split them up into primary and secondary resources. I sort of know the difference between primary and secondary, primary happening at the time, etc, secondary interprets.
    But what about books like J.S. Mill's on liberty? Or such like that; theoretical stuff like that, where they sort of interpret old ideas and concepts, but add new interpretations and such, i'm confused.

  2. #2
    Deleted User
    JohnGaltdoesnotmatter is offline
    primary sources include original footage, letters, documentation, or anything of that assortment. Even original interpretations are still considered a secondary sources

  3. #3
    Let me give you an example of something I'm confused on:

    Directgov, “Custodial sentences for young people” 1 April 2011, accessed April 11 2011.

    What is that?

  4. #4
    Deleted User
    JohnGaltdoesnotmatter is offline
    secondary. the primary version would be the actual laws, bills, and juducial opinions setting precedent from which this simplified version is derived

  5. #5
    How about:

    Husak, D. N., “Legal Paternalism,” in Hugh LaFollette (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Practical Ethics, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).

    Feinberg J., The moral limits of the criminal law, Vol.3, Harm to self (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986).

  6. #6
    Deleted User
    JohnGaltdoesnotmatter is offline
    I cant look these up (nor do i have to will to go to the library and do so), however judging by the titles and the fact that they are published works leads me to believe that they are just commentaries and therefore secondary sources.

    Primary sources are actual Interviews, artifacts, documents, etc. . . that directly relate to the topic. Therefore an interview with the a person is a primary source a biography is secondary. The actual text of a law (the boring confusing one) is a primary source. A book about how the law is followed and applied is secondary (however the book may contain primary sources, this does not make the book a primary source).

    A good way to think about it is as if you are giving evidence to a court. You are going to want to get the closest to the original (subject) as you possibly can. You wouldnt want to submit a book about the correspondences of an individual rather you would want the letters themselves.

    When writing, your primary sources are just raw information. You should be forced to make your own inferences based on the context of the source, not be able to copy and paste already formulated ideas.

    CORRECTION: These are most definately secondary sources
    Last edited by John Galt; 05-07-2011 at 11:10 AM.

  7. #7
    That makes a lot of sense.
    So using what you've just said, these would count as Primary resources:

    House of Commons, Parliamentary Debates, Volume 798, (London: HMSO, 1970).
    - a near vertabim transcript of debate in the House Of Commons (UK)

    Home Office, Drug Misuse Declared: Findings from the 2009/10 British Crime Survey (London: HOSB, 2010).
    - report detailing statistics of survey done


  8. #8
    Quit having him do it for you! He just explained it thoroughly enough, and you are asking him a stupid question (it is only stupid because he explained everything for you). If you have internet, look up your question on google or yahoo. Leave that job to someone else. Not anyone on the forums, though.
    "You can get more of what you want with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word."
    "Don't fight a battle if you don't gain anything by winning."
    "War is a quarrel between two thieves too cowardly to fight their own battle."

  9. #9
    I have looked it up, many many times. I get the general gist of it, but I'm still confused about where the exact line exists between primary and secondary resources. I've seen it referenced somewhere that says 'On Liberty' can be considered as a primary source, other times secondary. That book for instance talks about other people's ideas, I forget the name, but some bloke talking about paternalism being justified, etc. Mills criticises him, etc.
    He also reconceptualises old ideas, with very new twists; the same can be said about a lot about a lot of the books in my bibliography.
    I've also seen it said that sometimes some items can count as primary resources, other times secondary, that overlaps exist.

    The descriptions given have also often used historical examples to make their point; e.g. "
    original footage, letters, documentation",
    (- I would normally associate with history sources)
    Whilst secondary is interpreting these

    As useful as that distinction might be for some of what I've got, it doesn't exactly make everything clear to me.
    Concerning the concepts I've been working with in my dissertation, everyone seems to disagree. They are essentially interpreting a (timeless) concept.

    Some are largely reinterpreting other people idea, which are clearly instances of secondary sources, but most are discussing the notion with no directly attributable 'primary' source.
    Yes, they make a lot of references to others' ideas, for context, but they build on such ideas a lot.
    If such books were secondary, what would the primary sources be?

    So which is it, secondary or primary? Simple question, simple answer if you're so convinced that its been fully explained.

    p.s. If you're interested, both of you, I'm happy to send you copies of it once I've fully finished (just about already, just need to organise these sources lol)

    Last edited by Badwolf; 05-07-2011 at 10:59 PM.

  10. #10
    I'm interested. Also, for example, a diary would be primary because it is a first-hand account. A history book is secondary because someone took a truck load of primary, summarized it, and put it in a book. The bibliography in most textbooks is where they list all of the primary/secondary resources where they got the information. I am sorry about the outrage about John Galt explaining it. What is this for, anyway?
    Last edited by katchinsky; 05-08-2011 at 04:38 AM.
    "You can get more of what you want with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word."
    "Don't fight a battle if you don't gain anything by winning."
    "War is a quarrel between two thieves too cowardly to fight their own battle."

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