A question to ask yourself when trying to identify primary or secondary sources is:
Did the person writing the thing do the thing?
While this may sound odd, the best indicator that something is a primary source is if the author of the piece actually DID the work that led to the creation of the resource.
These are some other things to consider with primary and secondary sources.
In primary source documents, the person writing the piece actually did the research, or witnessed the event, or created something entirely new. These are some examples of primary sources:
Secondary sources evaluate or analyze what others have done or witnessed or created. The authors didn't go out and do it, they just analyzed it or wrote about it. These are some examples of secondary sources:
When looking at a resource to determine whether it is primary or secondary, words that describe the action of the author can be helpful. For example, words like these can indicate actual research carried out:
In secondary resources, since the focus is on analyzing or discussion of a primary source, you would look for words that describe the action of the author indicating that this is an analysis or discussion, such as:
You will need to examine the abstract and/or the article to determine if the resource is primary or secondary. While the words above can help indicate the type of resource, this is not a cut and dried process where if you see a particular word, that means the resource is always primary.
Locating a findings section in an article doesn't mean the source is either primary or secondary. Check to see whether the authors did the research themselves, or whether they analyzed research done by others.
For example, in the article, School counselors' strategies for social justice change: A grounded theory of what works in the real world, these are some of the key elements from the abstract that indicate that it is a primary, research article:
The primary source authors actually talked to 16 school counselors, using grounded methodology, to come up with their findings based on the research that the authors actually did. Here, the authors did the research themselves and then reported on it.
Singh, A. A., Urbano, A., Haston, M., & McMahon, E. (2010). School counselors' strategies for social justice change: A grounded theory of what works in the real world. Professional School Counseling, 13(3), 135-145. doi:10.5330/PSC.n.2010-13.135
This is an example of an article that is a secondary source, with some of the key elements highlighted:
In the article abstract, Advocacy for health equity: A synthesis review, these are some of the key elements that indicate it is a secondary source article:
What makes the secondary source secondary is that the authors used other authors' research, analyzing and synthesizing the information to come up with their conclusions, or findings.
Farrer, L., Marinetti, C., Cavaco, Y. K., & Costongs, C. (2015). Advocacy for health equity: A synthesis review. Milbank Quarterly, 93(2), 392-437. doi:10.1111/1468-0009.12112