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Research Process Demystified @ Pitt

A guide for students beginning the research paper and project process.

Evaluate your Results and Sources: Use the CRAAP model: currency, relevancy, authority, accuracy, and purpose

Scholarly Sources

  • Produced by experts or researchers in a specialized field or discipline.
  • Purpose is to present new or unpublished research.
  • Articles reviewed by experts for scholarly content or quality, or
  • peer reviewed
  • Written using formal language and structure: abstract,
  • literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, footnotes, endnotes and/or bibliography.
  • Articles always cite source information.
  • May include tables or graphs to support research.

Three Types of Sources

There are three types of sources:

1) Primary Sources

  • Original materials that provide direct evidence or first-hand testimony concerning a topic or event.
  • Primary sources can be contemporary sources created at the time when the event occurred (e.g., letters and newspaper articles) or later (such as, memoirs and oral history interviews).
  • Primary sources may be published or unpublished.  Unpublished sources are unique materials (e.g., family papers) often referred to as archives and manuscripts.
  • What constitutes a primary source varies by discipline. How the researcher uses the source generally determines whether it is a primary source or not.

2) Secondary Sources

  • Works that interpret, analyze, and discuss the evidence provided by primary sources (e.g., scholarly books and articles).
  • Secondary sources are generally a second-hand account or observation at least one step removed from the event.
  • Secondary sources, however, can be considered to be primary sources depending on the context of their use. For example, Ken Burns' documentary of the Civil War is a secondary source for Civil War researchers, but a primary source for those studying documentary filmmaking.

3) Tertiary Sources

  • Books or articles that synthesize or distill primary and secondary sources, often in a convenient, easy-to-read form (e.g., dictionaries, encyclopedias, indexes, and textbooks).