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Sociology

What are primary, secondary, and tertiary sources?

You've likely heard the term 'primary sources' and 'secondary sources' before.

But have you heard of tertiary? Most likely you've used one before without even knowing it. Here's a brief breakdown of each type. 

Note: Keep in mind that the meaning of these terms differs depending on your program of study and the context in which it is used.

  • Primary sources are original materials. Primary sources can be artifacts, first-person accounts such as diaries, or an article presenting original research. 
  • Secondary sources interpret or discuss original sources. Some examples of secondary sources are journal articles, literature reviews, books, and book reviews.
  • Tertiary sources synthesize information from primary and secondary sources. Tertiary sources can be books, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and textbooks. 

Watch the video below to find out more:


If you're unsure about which sources to use for your assignment, contact the Library for help. 

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