Q. What is the difference between secondary sources and academic journals?

I have an argumentative essay and my teacher requires that we use a certain number of secondary sources, and some of them must be academic journals, What does this mean? Can I use the internet for articles or newspapers? If so, where do I get this type of information?


To start with, academic journals are one type of secondary source, and other types can include books, newspapers and popular magazines, in both print and online formats. A secondary source is one that combines information from a variety of primary sources that relate to a specific topic in order to explain and draw conclusions about it. Primary sources can be all kinds of things, like first-hand accounts of an event, statistics, interviews, government and legal documents, etc. They are something that directly and specifically is about the topic.

For example, the Diary of Anne Frank is a primary source about one person’s experience of the Holocaust. A scholar writing about the Holocaust could use the diary in combination with other people’s memoirs or with statistics about concentration camps, or transcripts from war crimes trials. The paper or book that the scholar then writes would be a secondary source.

For recent and/or controversial topics you would likely find a lot of information on the internet, but you would be better off using the library’s databases to find academic journals. A great place to start is our guide titled Your Paper (http://subjectguides.cnm.edu/paper) which goes into depth how to research databases and find academic articles. Another great resources is the  Library Research Skills guide (http://subjectguides.cnm.edu/basic_skills), which covers more broadly how to use library resources.

  • Last Updated Dec 12, 2018
  • Views 50
  • Answered By Tiffany Tomchak

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