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Psychology, Yuma: Primary & Secondary Sources in Psychology

This course guide is to help you utilize the library resources


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Primary Sources

What is considered a primary source in psychology?

Primary sources are original research articles (empirical research), meaning that they are written by the researchers who conducted the research.  They are most often written once the research is complete or near completion. 

  • Original research articles present new material. 
  • Are often written by professionals in the field or a related discipline.
  • Are generally published in peer-reviewed journals.  
  • Many original research articles found in peer-reviewed journals follow a similar format and usually include an introduction, methods section, results, discussion/conclusion, and references.  Look for all of these elements when you are looking for primary sources. 


The APA Dictionary of Psychology defines empirical as:

  • "derived from or denoting experimentation or systematic observations as the basis for conclusion or determination, as opposed to speculative, theoretical, or exclusively reason-based approaches."

What is peer-review?

The APA describes peer review  as the " process, in which the quality and potential contribution of each manuscript is evaluated by one's peers in the scientific community. . . . Toward the goal of impartiality, the majority of APA journals follow a masked review policy, in which authors' and reviewers' identities are concealed from each other. Reviewer identities are never shared unless the reviewer requests to sign their review." - 


Secondary Sources

What is considered a secondary source in psychology?

  • Secondary sources in psychology include articles that summarize or provide interpretations of original research.
  • Secondary sources can be articles or books. 
  • Review articles are also considered a secondary source.
  • Secondary sources can often be easier to read.