Primary, Secondary & Tertiary Sources


The content of research papers may come from different types of sources, such as:

  • Your own opinion and analysis
  • Primary sources
  • Secondary sources
  • Tertiary sources

It may not be necessary to include each of these types of sources in every paper you write, but your instructor may require you to include them. It is important to understand the characteristics of primary, secondary and tertiary sources–they each serve a different purpose throughout the research process, and can strengthen your assignment, too.

It can be difficult to figure out if a source is considered primary, secondary or tertiary. We will explain the differences and provide examples of each in this tutorial. If you are still not sure if a source you would like to use is primary, secondary or tertiary, ask a librarian or teacher.



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