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PolSCI 3520

Politics in Latin America

Primary Sources & Secondary Sources Explained

During the course of your research, you might be asked to use primary and secondary sources. 'What is the difference?', you ask.
•PRIMARY SOURCES "you will discover information first hand often by conducting interviews, surveys, or polls." Here you will be expected to collect and sift through "raw data." You will be expected to "study, select, arrange, and speculate on this data" The raw data may be opinions of experts, historical documents, theoretical speculations of a famous sociologist, or material collected from other researchers.


SECONDARY SOURCES here you will make use of secondary sources of information. These are published accounts of primary materials, for example the interpretation of raw data. "While the primary researcher might poll a community for its opinion of the outcome of a recent bond election, the secondary researcher will use the material form the poll to support a particular thesis."

SIFT method for evaluating resources

SIFT is a series of actions you can take to determine the validity and reliability of claims and sources on the web.

The SIFT method, or strategy, is quick and simple and can be applied to various kinds of online content: news articles, scholarly articles, social media posts, videos, images, etc.

Each letter in SIFT corresponds to one of the Four Moves:

A graphic explaining the SIFT Method: The S stands for STOP, the I stands for Investigate the Source, the F stands for find other coverage and the T stands for trace claim quotes and media back to their original context.


Investigate the source

Find better coverage

Trace claims, quotes and media to the original context


Find more details on the Four Moves from Mike Caulfield's SIFT (Four Moves), which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

APA Bibliographic Citation Examples

Book (One Author):

Naughton, B. (2007). The Chinese economy: Transitions and growth. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
   [Note: Second and subsequent lines of APA style citations should be indented, although the LibGuide format does not permit it here.]

Book (Multiple Authors):

Fubini, D., Price, C., & Zollo, M. (2007). Mergers: Leadership, performance, and corporate health. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Book (Corporate Author or No Author):

American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC.: Author.
   [Note: If the publisher is the same as the author, write the word "Author" in the publisher position as in this example. Also include the edition statement if there is one.]

Book (Editor):

Bosworth, M., & Flavin, J. (Eds.) (2007). Race, gender, and punishment: From colonialism to the war on terror. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Book (Online):

Toy, E.C., & Klamen, D. (2009). Case files: Psychiatry (3rd ed.). [Kindle version]. Retrieved from:
    [Note: Electronic retrieval information takes the place of the publisher location and name. APA style does not put a period after the URL as some other citation styles do.]

Journal Article (One Author):

Meirowitz, A. (2007). Communication and bargaining in the spatial model. International Journal of Game Theory, 35, 251-266. doi:10.1007/soo182-006-0052-3
   [Note: The string of numbers at the end of the citation is called a Digital Object Identifier (DOI). Most scholarly journal articles assign them, and APA style wants you to include a DOI for every journal article that has one. A DOI is a permanent ID and preferable to a URL. You'll generally find it on the first page of an article.]

Journal Article (Multiple Authors):

Koremenos, B., Lipson, C., & Snidal, D. (2001). The rational design of international institutions. International Organization, 35, 761-799. doi:10.1162/002081801317193592

Journal Article (Online):

Baggetun, R., & Watson, B. (2006). Self-regulated learning and open writing. European Journal of Education, 41, 453-472. doi:10.1111/j.14653435.2006.00276.x
   [Note: If you're citing an article online and don't see a DOI, list a URL instead.]

Citation Style Manuals