Primary sources: newspapers, magazines, companies and organisations
Most newspapers are now available online, although you should be aware that in some cases retrospective access will be limited to only a few years.
A good source of current, specialised information. Many are now available online. GCU subscribes to Proquest Central, a database that gives you access online to major newspapers and trade magazines. We also have access to the British Library Collection of 19th Century newspapers.
Companies can provide valuable primary source material, as their work may be in the area you are researching. All companies produce material such as annual reports which give information about the company and what it does, as well as contacts for further details and outlines of the work done during the year. They may also be involved in publishing research carried out by their staff. Most companies have websites which can contain a lot of information, much of this can be treated as a primary source.
Remember that companies operate for profit, and that information on their websites will be primarily promotional. For this reason you should read the site carefully, and make sure you can check that the information is reliable.
If you don't feel sure about using it, then try to verify the information using another source. If you are unable to do this, that doesn't mean you shouldn't use the information - but you should make sure you point out any problems with it, so people reading your work will know you have taken these into consideration.
Organisations, agencies and research centres
Examples of these include:
- NGOs (non-governmental organisations) such as WaterAid
- Charities like the Scottish SPCA (Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)
- Government agencies for example BIS: Department for Business Innovation & Skills
- International organisations and agencies such as World Health Organisation
- University departments and research centres like nmahp-ru (Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit) here at Glasgow Caledonian University.
As with companies, these types of organisations will have websites containing a lot of information about what each organisation does, and what type of activities its staff are involved in. Unlike companies these organisations do not usually operate for a profit and that means that you may find much of what they publish is available freely. Research reports, or papers, written by staff at these organisations can be treated as primary sources. You will also be able to communicate with staff, as the majority of such organisations will have some type of contact form available on their website.
Whilst these organisations do not usually charge for information, you might be asked to pay in some cases, particularly as NGOs and charities have to get finance to support their work. Again if you are unsure of any information, try to check it with another source.