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This module defines primary and secondary sources, offers examples of each, and provides criteria for distinguishing between these two types of sources. In addition, the module offers strategies and criteria to follow for determining the reliability of a research reference and provides examples of reliable and unreliable sources.


Students will learn that reference sources can be highly reliable; yet, some can be very unreliable. This is especially true with sources found on the Internet. When evaluating sources, students should consider the following questions:

  1. What are the author’s credentials?
  2. Is the author an authority on the subject?
  3. Who published the work?
  4. Is the work current?
  5. How accurate is the information?
  6. Is the information reliable?
  7. Is research objectively presented?
  8. Who is the intended audience?

Students will learn to differentiate between primary and secondary research and sources and understand that primary sources answer the following five questions affirmatively :

Defining primary sources

  1. Was the author present at the time of the event?
  2. Is the report an eyewitness account?
  3. Is the work original? Was it written or created at the time of the event?
  4. Does the information come from personal accounts, experiences, or reports?
  5. Are conclusions drawn from first hand evidence?

Students will also learn that secondary sources respond favorably to the following five questions:

Defining secondary sources

  1. Does the author present second-hand accounts of events?
  2. Does the source interpret information offered by primary sources?
  3. Does the information offer judgments, conjectures, and/or conclusions about events reported in primary sources?
  4. Does someone other than the creator interpret the creative work?
  5. Are theories, facts, results, or discoveries analyzed, evaluated, and/or interpreted second-hand?

Teaching strategies:

The instructor should review all material prior to teaching this lesson. In addition, instructors should ensure that students understand how to evaluate sources wisely. The instructor should review reliable and unreliable sources of information and offer examples of each. In the slide show, definitions and examples of reliable, unreliable, primary, and secondary sources are provided. Students should learn to define and discriminate between each type of source.


In order to offer this lesson, instructors need a computer and a multi-media projector.

The following materials and handouts are provided with this module:

  1. PowerPoint slide show
  2. A hand-out of the slide show for students after they receive the lesson
  3. One practice sheet with primary and secondary source exercises
  4. Answer sheets for the practice exercises


The authors recommend that the instructor distribute the practice sheet to the students as a pre-test prior to receiving the lesson. After completing the lesson, students should answer the practice sheet again as a post-test. In this way, instructors may determine whether the students master this objective or require additional instructional support.

Questions & Answers

I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
How can I make nanorobot?
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Civis project - uprm. OpenStax CNX. Nov 20, 2013 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11359/1.4
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