Answered By: Theresa Bell
Last Updated: Nov 15, 2017     Views: 4107

When conducting academic research, unless expressly stated otherwise by instructors or editors, the expectation is that authors will work with primary sources, rather than relying on secondary sources. Working with primary sources allows authors to interpret the information for themselves, rather than relying on the interpretation of other authors. See "Alligators and Academia: The Importance of Primary and Secondary Sources" from the APA Style Blog for more information.

A secondary source refers to a resource that discusses information originally presented or published elsewhere, such as a journal article that discusses previous findings from another author, or a second-hand account of an event, such as a history textbook. A secondary source citation occurs when an author quotes, summarizes, or paraphrases a source that was used in another text. See "Primary and Secondary Sources" in the RRU Library Infoquest tutorial for more information. If you need help finding a primary source, please contact the RRU librarians.

Should you find yourself in the rare sitation where a primary source isn't available (e.g., the text isn't available in a language you understand or the book is out of print), please check with your instructor or advisor before using secondary sources to ensure that using them is acceptable. To cite a secondary source, identify the original author in your document and cite the text where you found the information (American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 178). For example, if you quoted Souper's text, which you found in Green’s book, you should reference Green because you read Green’s book: “Souper (as cited in Green, 1999) noted that…”. Add Green’s book to your references.

For more information, please see "Secondary Sources (aka How to Cite a Source You Found in Another Source)" from the APA Style Blog.


American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.