Simon is in the final year of his Law Degree. He must write a final thesis to earn his diploma. Several times during his research, he found some quotes in which the source's author cites another source. He wonders whether he should cite the original source and/or the cited source. Is this considered a double citation?


What is the correct citation for a secondary source that contains a primary source?

A primary source is a first-hand account made by an author. A secondary source is one in which an author cites another person's account. The secondary source is not the point of origin for the idea. Hence, both the primary and secondary sources should be included in the citation.

Example of this kind of citation: According to Niskanen, 1971, cited in Mueller, 2003, p. 364)...

primary secondary sources

What are the reasons why an author would cite another author?

Citing secondary sources is a good way to illustrate your point with at least two authors who support the same idea. Indeed, secondary-source citations can enhance a person's research by citing well-known figures in their professions.

Example of a secondary-source citation: According to Brassard (cited in Michaud, 2006), there would be no difference […].


On the other hand, in the case where you disagree with an author, double referencing makes it possible to compare the opinions of several authors on the same subject. In this way, the initial idea can be developed and evolve.

Example of this kind of citation: According to Savard (as cited in Côté and Morin, 1986)...

Excerpt from the Library and Archives website of the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi, "Conducting research work - Citing your sources / Avoiding plagiarism"

Why reference both the original source and the cited source?

When doing document-based research, you should be sure to cite both the original source and the cited source. Citing both of these sources allows the reader to find the original account from the secondary source and highlights the original work of both authors. Lastly, this step demonstrates your respect for copyright.

plagiarism prohibited
What are my incentives to respect copyright?

How do I cite secondary sources that include primary sources?

First of all, you should indicate the name of the author of the original document in the text. Then, indicate the name of the author of the secondary document in parentheses. This double citation will be referenced in its entirety.

Example: The study by Seindeberg & McClelland (cited by Coltheart, Curtis, Atkins & Haller, 1993)...


Then, in the bibliography, you only need to reference the secondary source, since this is the source you used directly.

Example: The study by Seindeberg & McClelland...


In conclusion, double referencing enhances the ideas you're defending and respects those who have contributed to this line of thought. These double citations may seem complicated. However, they are appreciated by teachers grading academic work and show a certain level of comfort in respecting copyright.

Simon has now understood that he must correctly cite primary and secondary sources in the body of the text and include secondary sources in his bibliography.

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