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Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources Chart

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources Chart

 

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources


There are three kinds of information sources that you can use in your assignments, Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary sources.  In your research for your classes you will be using all three kinds of information. One is not right or better than the other. They just have different purposes. So it will be helpful to understand their differences. 

Generally, Primary sources are the first and closest recorded representation of the evidence from studies, original observations of events, original documents and communications of organizations including governments, and creative works of art, literature, film or music. 

Secondary sources are created by someone who did not experience first hand or participate in the events, conditions, or studies you are researching. However, secondary sources analyze and interpret primary sources, to find valuable insights, trends, and contexts.  Secondary sources can be found in books, articles, web sites, videos, and media.

Tertiary Sources consist of a summary of or index to primary sources and relevant secondary source analyses on a specific topic. Tertiary sources are found in encyclopedia, textbooks, databases, handbooks, and dictionaries.

There is no one universal definition of primary, secondary, or tertiary sources, rather each discipline defines primary, secondary, and tertiary sources according to the nature of the discipline.

See some definitions and examples of primary, secondary, and tertiary sources by disciplines below.

 

 

 Primary_Sources

 Secondary_Sourcesxxxx 

 Tertiary_Sourcesxxxxxxx 

Sciences

 

  • Empirical Evidence

 

  • First report of research, published as a journal article, a research report or conference proceeding, or a book or book chapter. They include methodology, data, results, and discussion. 

 

  • An analysis about a research study to provide context, trends, or valuable  insights. 

  • Review articles  summarize research on a particular topic, but they do not present any new findings; therefore, they are  considered secondary sources.
  • Collections of primary or/and secondary sources

 

  • Textbooks
  • Encyclopedia
  • Handbooks
  • Databases

 

Literature/Art

Music/Artifact

  • Original Creative Works: Novel, Poem, Story, Art Work, Artifact, Music, Film, Video Game

 

  • An analysis of the original work or author. Can be found in articles, books, book chapters, web sites, blogs, and media.

  • Collections of primary or secondary sources
  • Anthologies
  • Textbooks
  • Encyclopedia
  • Databases

 

History

 

  • First hand account of events written during the time of the event.
  • Diaries, letters, maps, laws, policies, newspaper articles witnessing the events
  • An analysis about the  event after the time of the event, by someone who did not experience the event. Can  be a book, article or media.
  • Collections of primary or secondary sources
  • Anthologies
  • Textbooks
  • Encyclopedia
  • Databases

Business

 

  • Internally generated information about a company or organization. What a company, organization or industry says about itself. Examples include annual reportsfinancial statementspress releases, internal policies, strategic plans, R&D data, interviewsadvertisements & marketing, corporate blog entries or tweets.

 

  • First reports of empirical research involving business concepts or companies found in journal articles, research reports, conference proceedings or books.
  • The analysis of original or empirical primary sources about companies, organizations, industries, or business topics to provide useful insights and context. Found in newspapers, magazine articles, books, media sources, and review databases such as IBIS World.

 

  • Articles, books or media summarizing, synthesizing, or commenting on business primary sources often citing the reports of empirical research or original company sources.
  • Collections of primary or secondary sources

 

  • Textbooks
  • Encyclopedia
  • Databases
  • Reference Tools
  • Manuals