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Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources: Discipline Grid

This guide intends to clarify and differentiate three types of research sources, helping users discern and select academic-quality sources of information.

A Comparison Grid

What constitutes a primary, secondary, or tertiary source can vary from discipline to discipline. This grid illustrates this point at a glance.

 

Google Scholar

Use Google Scholar to find academic-quality information (articles, papers, reports) on the Web.

Comparing Sources by Discipline

  This chart presents source examples by discipline:

DISCIPLINE PRIMARY SECONDARY TERTIARY
Art/Architecture A painting by Chagall
A building by F.L. Wright
Journal articles or books 
discussing either work
An encyclopedia of artists
or dictionary of architects
Chemistry/Biology Pasteur's notebook A book about his work An encyclopedia of famous medical breakthroughs
Engineering A device patent The Engineering Village database A machine's instructional manual
Humanities Transcripts of Oval Office tape recordings A website discussing Nixon's White House tapes A dictionary of American presidents
Social Sciences Freud's diary A journal article discussing psychoanalysis A psychology textbook
Performing Arts The movie "The Silence of the Lambs" A biography of co-star Jodie Foster A review of the movie

 

 Example from the discipline of art:

 

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