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PSYCHOLOGY: SUBJECT GUIDE: Primary Sources

Starting points for research in Psychology.

Other Important Considerations

Empirical Research
According to the APA Dictionary of Psychology to be 'empirical' research is "1. 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. 2. based on experience."

Peer Review
Refers to the process that a scholarly book or journal article goes through when an authors research and writing is evaluated by experts in their discipline or field.  In the case of a journal article, peers review articles to determine if they'll be accepted and published in a specific journal.  In the case of psychology journals expert peers are evaluating and checking the accuracy and originality of the research being reported on.

Primary Sources in PsycINFO

When looking at a record in PsycINFO to try to determine if the resource you're looking at is a primary source, it's important to check to see if the article is an empirical study.  Look for the "methodology" field of the record.

If there is an indication that the resource you're looking at is an Empirical Study then you know that it's research-based, and is a primary source.

Primary Sources in Psychology

Are original materials based on first-hand accounts of research conducted by the author(s). They are usually written at the time the research is occurring or shortly after the research is complete, and they present new information or discoveries.

Primary sources in psychology:

  • are written accounts of original research, study, or experimentation conducted by the author(s) of the resource.
  • are written accounts of primary research and are typically published in scholarly, peer-reviewed, journals, and are often published by professional associations or academic institutions.
  • are often research articles and generally contain standard components, and follow a specific format or pattern.
    • typically they include an abstract, a methods section, discussion, a conclusion and references.
  • can be found by looking for clues.
    • read the abstract of an article and look for statements like:
      • The research we conducted shows . . .
      • The aim of our study was . . .
      • We looked at two groups of children . . .
      • Our research concluded that . . .

Streaming Media

Kanopy and Films on Demand are streaming video services which provide access to a broad spectrum of educational and documentary content.

What's a primary source?

Primary sources are original, uninterpreted information.  Scholars analyze primary sources in order to answer research questions. Examples of primary sources vary by discipline.

Examples in the humanities:

  • a novel
  • a painting
  • a theatre performance

Examples in the social sciences:

  • a political, social, or economic theory
  • a dataset
  • the results of an experiment published in a peer-reviewed journal

Example in the sciences:

  • the results of an experiment published in a peer-reviewed journal

Need help?

This guide highlights only a small portion of the many resources available to you.  If you're not finding what you need, don't hesitate to contact Andrea!

Andrea Klyn
Social Sciences Liaison Librarian
email: aklyn@pugetsound.edu
tel: (253) 879-2875
office:  Collins Library 141

Request an Appointment with Andrea