Definition of primary information

Updated April 17, 2017

Primary information refers to sources that may be necessary in order to accomplish thorough, accurate research. Which information is considered primary can vary between different areas of study and the context in which the information is used.


Primary sources contain original information that has not been filtered or interpreted. The information can exist as a physical object or in print or electronic formats. Often primary information is the first official appearance of a given result or idea.


Whether a piece of information is considered to be primary can vary between subject areas. In the sciences, examples would include numerical data, original findings or ideas printed in research articles from scholarly journals. In the humanities, it could be any objects or documents created during a certain time period. These can include artefacts, paintings, maps, diaries, letters, sound recordings, case studies and surveys.

Secondary Sources

Information also can be considered secondary or even tertiary sources. Any source that comments on or evaluates the primary information can be considered secondary. This provides the filtering or interpretation that is absent in a primary source. Examples of secondary sources can be bibliographies, criticisms, encyclopedias or textbooks.

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About the Author

Rachel Hoover has been a writer since 2003. Her articles have appeared in zines such as "Ax Wound." Hoover holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from North Central College and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.