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What are primary, secondary, and tertiary sources?

  • 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. 

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.