As you conduct research, you will consult different sources of information. An instructor may request primary, secondary, or tertiary sources. What does that mean?
Primary sources are original materials. They are from the time period involved and have not been filtered through interpretation or evaluation. Primary sources are original materials on which other research is based. They are usually the first formal appearance of results in physical, print or electronic format. They present original thinking, report a discovery, or share new information.
Note: The definition of a primary source may vary depending upon the discipline or context.
Secondary sources are less easily defined than primary sources. Generally, they are accounts written after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. They are interpretations and evaluations of primary sources. Secondary sources are not evidence, but rather commentary on and discussion of evidence. However, what some define as a secondary source, others define as a tertiary source. Context is everything.
Note: The definition of a secondary source may vary depending upon the discipline or context.
Tertiary sources consist of information which is a distillation and collection of primary and secondary sources.
|Art and Architecture||Painting by Manet||Article critiquing art piece||ArtStor database|
|Chemistry/Life Sciences||Einstein's diary||Monograph on Einstein's life||Dictionary on Theory of Relativity|
|Engineering/Physical Sciences||Patent||NTIS database||Manual on using invention|
|Humanities||Letters by Martin Luther King||Web site on King's writings||Encyclopedia on Civil Rights Movement|
|Social Sciences||Notes taken by clinical psychologist||Magazine article about the psychological condition||Textbook on clinical psychology|
|Performing Arts||Movie filmed in 1942||Biography of the director||Guide to the movie|
A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event. They may also present original thinking, new discoveries or new information collected at the time of an event.
Types of primary sources:
Examples of primary sources:
A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may have pictures, quotes or graphics of primary sources in them.
Types of secondary sources:
Examples of secondary sources:
A tertiary source is a compilation or digest of primary and secondary sources.
Types of tertiary sources: