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APA 7: Primary Sources

Primary Sources vs. Secondary Sources

A primary source reports original content; a secondary source refers to content first reported in another source.

It is good scholarly practice to find the primary source, read it, and cite it directly rather than citing a secondary source. This is because your interpretation of the original work is valuable to your writing. The original work should not be filtered by another author before you read it yourself.


If you are reading an article and the author cites a source, find the original article and cite that. The Library can help you find that article or a comparable one.

How to Find a Primary Source

1. Note the author's name and the year of the article in the in-text citation.

2. Look the author up in the reference section.

3. Use our databases to search for the article by title or DOI.

If you have trouble tracking down a source, email the Library with the citation and we will look for it and send you the link.