Skip to Main Content

Research Process: Primary Sources

Role of Primary Sources

Primary Sources

A primary source is whatever serves as the primary object of research. If a student is writing a biblical exegesis paper, then the biblical passage is the primary source. If a student is writing on Martin Luther's doctrine of justification, then Luther's commentary on Galatians and sermons are the primary sources. If a student is writing a theology paper, the primary source depends on the angle they take in the paper. If they are attempting to define a doctrine according to the Bible then the Bible is the primary source. However, if they are engaging Karl Barth's doctrine of the church, then Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics will serve as the primary source. Students should evaluate the primary source(s) on their own before reading secondary sources. They should develop their own original thoughts on the topic. Moreover, they should spend a significant portion of time on this step in the research process.