Psychology APA Style (6th Edition) Tutorial

 

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources

A primary source is one in which the information comes from the original author or “right from the horse’s mouth.” There are 2 types of primary sources, original and interpreted.

1. An original primary source is one that has not been revised by interpretation. That is, it is an original work from a source you have read yourself. An original primary source is listed as a reference and is cited in your academic paper.

Original primary in-text citation example:

According to Piaget (1990), children view the world…
OR
Children view the world … (Piaget, 1990).

Original primary reference example:

Piaget, J. (1990). The child’s conception of the world. New York, NY: Littlefield Adams.

NOTE: Roll your cursor over the following underlined phrase to highlight the relevant portion of the example above. In this original primary source example, Piaget is both listed as a reference AND cited in your academic paper.

NOTE: Original primary sources should be as current as possible (e.g., within the last 5-10 years). Where an original primary source is older than 10 years, it often lacks up-to-date information. Check to see if you can find a more recent article, or consult with your tutor about the article.s suitability.

2. An interpreted primary source is one that has been revised by interpretation. That is, it is a source you have not read yourself but read about it elsewhere. An interpreted primary source is cited in your academic paper but is not listed as a reference.

Interpreted primary in-text citation example:

According to Piaget (1990, as cited in Harris & Koenig, 2006), children learn …
OR
Children learn … (Piaget, 1990, as cited in Harris & Koenig, 2006, p. 518).

NOTE: Roll your cursor over the following underlined phrase to highlight the relevant portion of the example above. In this example, Piaget is the interpreted primary source; that is, you read about him in Harris & Koenig’s paper. Piaget is cited in your academic paper BUT is NOT listed as a reference.

A secondary source is one in which you have obtained author or research information “second-hand” about a primary source. That is, the author has interpreted and reported on material written by someone else. If you cite such interpreted information, you must cite it so that both the interpreted primary source (the original work) and the secondary source, from which you got it, are indicated.

Secondary in-text citation example:

According to Piaget (1990, as cited in Harris & Koenig, 2006), children learn…
OR
Children learn … (Piaget, 1990, as cited in Harris & Koenig, 2006, p. 518).

Note: Roll your cursor over the following underlined phrases to highlight the relevant portion of the example above. Using the same example, Piaget is the interpreted primary source and Harris & Koenig is the secondary source, that is, from which you got the information about Piaget. Harris & Koenig is BOTH cited in your academic paper, using the “… as cited in …” format, AND listed as a reference [see below].

Referencing a work discussed as a secondary source:

Harris, P. L., & Koenig, M. A. (2006). Trust in testimony: How children learn about science and religion. Child Development, 77(3), 505-524. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2006.00886.x

NOTE: Roll your cursor over the following underlined phrases to highlight the relevant portion of the example above. Using the same example, Harris & Koenig is the secondary source, that is, from which you got the information about Piaget. Harris & Koenig is BOTH listed as a reference AND cited in your academic paper, using the “… as cited in …” format [see above].

NOTE: Secondary sources should be as current as possible (e.g., within the last 5-10 years). Where a secondary source is older than 10 years, it often lacks up-to-date information. Check to see if you can find a more recent article, or consult with your tutor about the article’s suitability.

A comment about citing page numbers: Page numbers (or paragraph numbers, as in the case of some html pages where page numbers are not provided) must be attributed within the citation for a direct quote. APA states that citing a page number for a paraphrase is optional. Consult the assignment information or check with your tutor to see if page numbers are required for paraphrased information in your assignment.

A tertiary source is information that is compiled from other sources. That is, its intended purpose is to re-package existing information or provide an overview in a “one-stop shopping” format. Tertiary sources include, but are not limited to, textbooks, print or online dictionaries, encyclopedias, and abstracts; general open-source or user-contributed information (such as Wikipedia); general readings (such as Reader’s Digest); and general public websites or flyers that are meant to inform citizens of news or other updates (such as self-help websites). Tertiary sources are generally NOT allowed in academic papers.

NOTE: Consult your assignment guidelines or your tutor to see whether tertiary sources are permissible and in what context. See also the In-text Citation section further on in this tutorial.

Plagiarism and Academic Integrity

It is critical that you understand the differences between primary, secondary, and tertiary sources. The most common errors that students make are not including secondary source information in citations; paraphrasing someone else‘s work and not giving credit to the source; and copying and pasting information from another source without citing and referencing. These errors, whether intentional or not, result in plagiarism and academic integrity violations, which, in turn, can have serious consequences, which may include failing an assignment, failing a course, expulsion from the program or university, etc. A formal, verified charge of plagiarism can become a permanent part of a student’s academic record and can jeopardize future schooling or have work-related consequences.

Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing involves the re-wording (i.e., in your own words) of another person’s work. This work may be in the form of a text passage, explanation, argument or line of reasoning, or narrative. While the length of the paraphrase may be similar to the original work, it must differ significantly in wording and sentence structure. That is, it must be more than a word substitution or rearrangement. A paraphrase is considered an indirect quote, so it does not require quotation marks. However, it must be attributed and cited to the original source (APA format). Common errors are inaccurate and/or misleading paraphrases, and patch writing.

An inaccurate paraphrase is one in which the student has not fully grasped the intent of the original information. This is usually treated as an interpretation error (penalized by loss of marks).

A misleading (false) paraphrase is more serious. In a misleading paraphrase, the original information has been skewed or slanted so as to deliberately misrepresent the author‘s original intent. If it has limited effect on the paper as a whole, it may simply be penalized with a loss of marks. However, if it demonstrates a pattern or impacts the paper more profoundly, it may be treated as an academic integrity issue.

Patch writing occurs when a paraphrased passage is too similar to the original, where a few words have been changed here and there, but not enough to make the attempted paraphrase different from the original. Howard (1999) defines patch writing as “copying from a source text and then deleting some words, altering grammatical structures, or plugging in one-for-one synonym-substitutes” (as cited in Sutherland-Smith, 2008, p. 25)1. For example, the student copies sections of text word-for-word, often from a variety of sources, and linked together with additional sentences. This is considered plagiarism unless all directly quoted text is indicated (with quotation marks, etc.) and is referenced appropriately. Even with proper referencing, this is considered poor academic writing style and it fails to show that the student understands the material presented (penalized by a loss of marks). If this occurs as a pattern, the paper is submitted as an incidence of plagiarism.

Ignorance or unfamiliarity with plagiarism and academic integrity issues is not considered a valid excuse. Many professors and universities are using plagiarism software, such as Turnitin®, to determine whether a paper has been plagiarized or contains plagiarized content. It is in your best interest to know the rules and follow them.

1Sutherland-Smith, W. (2008).Plagiarism, the Internet, and student learning: Improving academic integrity. New York, NY: Routledge.

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