Research Sources: Primary, Secondary, Tertiary
What are Primary Sources?
"Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They are characterized by their content, regardless of their format." (Primary Sources at Yale)
- Artifacts (coins, plant specimens, fossils, furniture, tools, clothing)
- Audio recordings (radio programs, podcasts)
- Internet communication on e-mails and listservs
- Interviews (oral histories, telephone, e-mail)
- Journal articles in peer-reviewed publications
- Newspapers written at the time
- Original documents (birth certificate, will, marriage license, trial transcript)
- Proceedings of meetings, conferences, symposia
- Records of organizations, government agencies (annual report, treaty, constitution, govenment document)
- Speeches (including transcripts)
- Survey research (market surveys, public opinion polls)
- Video recordings (television programs)
- Works of art, architecture, literature, and music (paintings, sculptures, musical scores, buildings, novels, poems)
Finding Primary Sources:
- Calisphere: The University of California's free public gateway to a world of primary sources.
- CIESE: Science and Engineering
- Digital Library School Access: Primary sources will come up in your search results when exploring databases
- Finding Library Sources: Starting points for finding Library of Congress primary source documents
- Internet Public Library For Teens No longer updated but the resources previously linked are still available on this site.
- Library of Congress: Access the wealth of our nation's premier library
- National Archives: A trove of teacher resources and primary source documents
- Picturing America: US history through art and artifacts
- Smithsonian Education: Teachers, families, and students can find lesson plans and resources linked to Common Core State Standards and California Standards
- Smithsonian Institute: Archives materials for K-12 teachers
- Web Gallery of Art: Virtual museum and searchable database of Western European art
- World Digital Library: Browse by time period, topic, type of item, or institution
- Conversations with History: Search for interview videos by topic, time, name, transcripts also available from UC Berkeley's archives.
Teaching With Primary Sources:
- Library of Congress Teachers: Classroom materials and professional development to help teachers effectively use primary sources.
- SOAPS Primary Source Think Sheet: Tool for evaluation of primary sources using the SOAPS mnemonic: Subject, Occasion, Audience, Purpose, Speaker (see attachment below)
- Teaching with Document Lesson Plans: From the National Archives
- Teaching With Primary Sources: Using digital primary source materials from the Library of Congress
What are Secondary Sources?
"...[Secondary sources] are accounts written after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. They are interpretations and evaluations of primary sources." (University of Maryland: "Research Using Primary Sources").
- Biographical works
- Commentaries, criticisms
- Dictionaries, encyclopedias
- Journal articles (depending on the discipline can be primary)
- Magazine and newspaper articles (this distinction varies by discipline)
- Monographs, other than fiction and autobiography
- Website (also considered primary)
What are Tertiary Sources?
"Tertiary sources consist of information which is a distillation of collection of primary and secondary sources." (Yale University: "Comparative Sources: Primary, Secondary & Tertiary Sources").
- Bibliographies (also considered secondary)
- Dictionaries and Encyclopedias (also considered secondary)
- Fact books
- Indexes, abstracts, bibliographies used to locate primary and secondary sources
- Textbooks (also considered secondary)
"Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources." University Libraries. University of Maryland, 2014. Web. 8 October 2014.
Primary Sources at Yale. Yale University, 2008. Web. 8 October 2014.
Thanks to Ms. L. Roche for the information on this page.