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STA 151 D. Bartlett: Primary, Secondary and Tertiary

The Information Cycle

The difference between primary, secondary and tertiary

PRIMARY SOURCES

Primary sources have the following characteristics:

  • contain direct evidence, first-hand testimony, or eyewitness account of a topic or event
  • provide raw data
  • are commonly diaries, correspondence, photographs

SECONDARY SOURCE

Secondary sources have the following characteristics:

  • use primary data to solve a research problem
  • interpret primary sources
  • are commonly scholarly books and journal articles

TERTIARY SOURCES

Tertiary sources have the following characteristics:

  • books or articles that synthesize and report on secondary sources for general readers
  • are commonly textbooks, encyclopedia articles, or handbooks