I have come across a few infamous newspaper articles and I'd like to cite them to support some of my ideas and to take a few thoughts from them. However, I cannot seem to distinguish whether such articles are primary or secondary. What worsens things further is the fact that the authors do not cite their words and, usually, reference lists do not exist.

Do I treat a newspaper article like a primary source and cite it as such? If not, how can I track back the information given the fact that there are no references?

1 Answer 1


Whether a newspaper article is good to cite or not depends on the purpose for which you are citing it.

  • If you are writing about a factual topic, then newspaper articles are highly unreliable secondary sources, with a well-known tendency to be blatantly incorrect.
  • If you are writing about newspaper articles, however, then the newspaper is a primary source and can be cited directly.

So what should you do if you find a really juicy fact in a newspaper article with no reference? The same thing that you do if you hear something with no reference anywhere else: spend some quality time searching the literature and other sources to see if you can track down an actually reliable reference. And if you can't find one? Then you should reluctantly conclude that this "fact" is probably made up, whether intenationally or by accident.

  • I see, thanks for the new insight. However, if I have cited some newspaper articles in the past (for factual purposes, for example) as one would do for a typical newspaper article citation style in Harvard, regardless of how much the information is reliable, is it considered as plagiarism? In a sense that I am citing someone who is just mentioning information without sources... (I don't want to commit plagiarism by citing a secondary source as a primary source which I've done before; the reason why I've asked this)
    – R. AS.
    Apr 11, 2016 at 20:37
  • @R.AS. If you are clearly citing your sources, then you are not committing plagiarism. You may, however, have committed an act of poor scholarship by citing a source that you should not have trusted.
    – jakebeal
    Apr 11, 2016 at 20:41
  • Wherever I cited newspaper articles, they were part of a homework, presentation or an essay, not a major research. My question, according to your answer, is: what if I cited someone as (in-text: Blake 2010, 'Apple', para. 2) and then at the end: Blake, J. 2010, xxxx, The News, available from.... However, the information which I got from Blake turned out to be secondary and not primary or new data, shouldn't it be something like (someone cited in Blake 2010)? I worry that I could have unintentionally plagiarized by giving credit to a secondary source in a primary source style. Got me?
    – R. AS.
    Apr 11, 2016 at 20:47
  • @R.AS. Again, I wouldn't worry about anybody taking it for plagiarism rather than sloppy scholarship: the connection between your text and your source is clear.
    – jakebeal
    Apr 11, 2016 at 21:15

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