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Three Types of Sources
In general, there are three types of resources or sources of information: primary, secondary, and tertiary. It is important to understand these types and to know what type is appropriate for your coursework prior to searching for information.
- Primary sources are original materials on which other research is based, including:
- original written works – poems, diaries, court records, interviews, surveys, and original research/fieldwork, and
- research published in scholarly/academic journals.
- Secondary sources are those that describe or analyze primary sources, including:
- reference materials – dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, and
- books and articles that interpret, review, or sythesize original research/fieldwork.
- Tertiary sources are those used to organize and locate secondary and primary sources.
- Indexes – provide citations that fully identify a work with information such as author, titles of a book, artile, and/or journal, publisher and publication date, volume and issue number and page numbers.
- Abstracts – summarize the primary or secondary sources,
- Databases – are online indexes that usually include abstracts for each primary or secondary resource, and may also include a digital copy of the resource.
(Mary Woodley, CSUN Oviatt Library)
Primary vs. Secondary Sources (3:10)
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