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NU 631: Scientific Inquiry & Evidence for Clinical Practice

This guide is designed with NU403 and NU631 in mind, but is a great resource for anyone doing evidence-based practice nursing research.

What are Secondary Sources?

Secondary sources are sources that discuss, interpret, analyze, summarize, or comment on a primary or secondary source.  They are NOT first-hand accounts. Primary sources are original research studies; secondary sources are not.

Secondary sources include:

  • review articles
  • systematic reviews
  • meta-analyses
  • practice guidelines
  • editorials
  • commentaries

Some of these may be peer-reviewed.  Both primary and secondary sources may be peer-reviewed.

Secondary sources should not be used as evidence to support a claim  Since secondary sources discuss primary sources, it is best to find the primary source as your evidence.


Secondary Sources - Examples

Here are some examples of articles that would be considered secondary sources. Review articles can provide a good overview of the research in a given area but cannot be used as evidence. The original research articles discussed in a literature review may be sources of evidence.


What are Tertiary Sources?

Tertiary sources are sometimes confused with secondary sources.  A tertiary source is a summary or consolidation of information, in a factual but not analytical or interpretive way.  Examples:

  • Dictionaries
  • Encyclopedias
  • Handbooks
  • Directories