Distinguishing between primary and secondary sources is an important first step in scholary research. As critical inquiry is essential to solid, accurate research, scholars need to know the difference. According to the Society of American Archivists, primary sources are defined as "material that contains firsthand accounts of events and that was created contemporaneous to those events or later recalled by an eyewitness."
The SAA also defines secondary resources as "works not based on direct observation of or evidence directly associated with the subject, but instead relying on sources of information", as well as "works commenting on another work (primary sources), such as reviews, criticism, and commentaries."
The American Library Association's Reference and User Services Association has a detailed guide discussing the use of primary sources in research. Princeton University also provides a comparative overview of primary and secondary resources to aid in distinguishing between the two.