Thursday, September 23, 2010

There is a Difference

From text books, to journals and newspaper articles, there is often that one thing that such secondary sources can be traced back to- the primary source. Primary and secondary sources have many differences for instance, their format of writing, figures and illustrations, and levels of focus and detail. Along with these factors that categorize both types of sources comes their similarities. The Journal of Ecology study and the Daily Mail Reporter news article will be the primary and secondary sources that are referred back to when examples of comparisons and contrasts are presented.

The Journal of Ecology study- the primary source- has a writing style similar to that of a scientific report of research that has been conducted. On the other hand, the secondary source which is an article by the Daily Mail Reporter is presented as a newspaper article. The secondary source has very short paragraphs, about a sentence or two long referring to a study done on orchids. The references made by this source lead back to the primary research that was done on orchids. In the Journal of Ecology, Validation of biological collections as a source of phonological data for use in climate change studies: a case study with the orchid Ophrys sphegodes, the paragraphs are formatted in such a way that they have appropriate headings for each section as follows: summary, introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion, acknowledgements, and references. These are only a few examples of how primary and secondary sources differ.

Another aspect which differentiates these articles are the figures and illustrations. The article, How dried flowers picked 150 years ago could give scientists clues about how plants respond to climate change, includes two pictures throughout the paper. Both photos are of the Ophrys sphegodes, also known as the spider orchid. The first, is an early picture of an orchid picked in Kent in 1900 and the second being a recent picture of the same plant. The secondary source includes much more scientific illustrations. With six graphs and one table, the study precisely outlines the data that was collected, tested, and interpreted.

The extent to which each of the sources go into detail is of the most importance when recognizing what makes a primary source different from a secondary source. The research paper goes into depth. Not only does it include headings for each section, as previously mentioned, but the extent to which it explains every part of the research is apparent as well. Including various figures, percentages, data, and dates are only few of the examples of how intricate this paper is in comparison to the news article. The secondary source article most certainly is more general. It does not go into depth about the orchid research. Rather, it refers back to the study and discloses the main points about the primary source. The secondary source is good to rely on if you are only interested in the general important facts rather than all of the fine details that are included in the primary source.

Although primary and secondary sources seem to have more differences than similarities, it does not go to say that one is more important than the other. Yes, they are used in different ways and for different types of purposes. However, it goes without saying that they do indeed depend on one another. The primary source depends on the secondary source to present very detailed information to a more general and public audience in a clear, consice, and understandable manner. It is evident that primary and secondary sources have a diverse and complimentary relationship.

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