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I-Search Project for College & Careers: Primary vs. Secondary Resources

This LibGuide is designed to help English 12 students search for and discover information that is immediately useful concerning post-high school career pathways.

Primary Sources Defined

What are Primary Sources?

Primary Sources are immediate, first-hand accounts of a topic, from people who had a direct connection with it. Primary sources can include: Texts of laws and other original documents. Newspaper reports, by reporters who witnessed an event or who quote people who did.

Examples of a primary sources are: Original documents such as diaries, blogs, podcasts, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, records, eyewitness accounts, autobiographies. Empirical scholarly works such as research articles, clinical reports, case studies, dissertations.

Secondary Sources Defined

What are Secondary Sources?

Secondary sources were created by someone who did not experience first-hand or participate in the events or conditions you're researching. For a historical research project, secondary sources are generally scholarly books and articles. A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources.

Common examples of secondary sources include academic books, journal articles, reviews, essays, and textbooks.

Anything that summarizes, evaluates or interprets primary sources can be a secondary source. If a source gives you an overview of background information or presents another researcher's ideas on your topic, it is probably a secondary source.

Primary vs. Secondary Sources (Hartness Library, 3:17)

Tertiary Sources Defined

What are Tertiary Sources?

Tertiary sources are based on a collection of primary and secondary sources and may or may not be written by an expert. Tertiary sources should never appear in your bibliography but are only used as exploratory sources, to give you ideas about what to research.

Wikipedia is not a reliable source and should not be utilized or appear in your bibliography.

Examples are dictionaries, encyclopedias, fact books, and guidebooks.

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