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ENG 100 Information Literacy Tutorial: Sources

Primary, Secondary, & Tertiary Sources

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources

Information can also be categorized into three types: Primary, secondary, and tertiary.  The tables below define each type and provides characteristics and examples.

Primary Sources

Definition 

Original documents created by witnesses or recorders of the event being researched

 Characteristics

First-hand observations, contemporary accounts of events, viewpoints of the time

 Examples

Interviews, reports, studies, creative works, speeches, news footage, diary entries, autobiographies

Secondary Sources

 Definition

Works that analyze, assess, or interpret an historical event, era or phenomenon, generally utilizing primary sources to do so

 Characteristics

Interpretation of information, usually written well after the event, offer reviews or critiques

 Examples

Journal articles, editorial articles, literary criticism, book reviews, biographies, textbooks

Tertiary Sources

 Definition

Sources that identify and locate primary and secondary sources

 Characteristics

Reference works, collections or lists of primary and secondary sources, finding tools for sources

 Examples

Indexes and abstracts, bibliographies, library databases and catalogs

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