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Finding Primary, Secondary, & Tertiary Sources

tips for searching and evaluating

How do I tell the difference?

So many different types of sources, so many assignments, so little time. Just when you think you've got the difference between popular, substantive, and scholarly sources down, you get an assignment that requires at least one primary source and a variety of secondary and tertiary sources. You may have heard about them and seen a few examples in class, but now that you have to find and recognize them on your own -- related to your research question -- you're not not sure where to start.

Don't be confused! One way to think about sources is like the colors on a color wheel -- primary colors provide the foundation, secondary colors are built from the primaries, and tertiary colors are a mashup of both primary and secondary colors.

Take a LOOK at the examples on the next two pages, WATCH the minute video on the secondary sources page, then challenge yourself to take the tutorial quiz. When you feel clearer about navigating the grey areas between primary and secondary sources, take one step further away from the original to EXPLORE the tertiary sources page. When in doubt, be sure to check with your professor about sources for your particular assignment.