Using Primary, secondary and Tertiary Sources in Research
Let’s say you are writing a research paper on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) of 1972, but you are unfamiliar with it. A good place to gather a general idea or understanding of the ERA would be a tertiary source, such as Wikipedia or the Encyclopedia Brittanica. There, you can read a summary of events on its history, key people involved, and legislation.
To find more in-depth analysis on the Equal Rights Amendment, you consult a secondary source: the nonfiction book Why We Lost the ERA by Jane Mansbridge and a newspaper article from the 1970s that discuss and review the legislation. These provide a more focused analysis of the Equal Rights Amendment that you can include as sources in your paper (make sure you cite them!).
A primary source that could bolster your research would be a government document detailing the ERA legislation that initially passed in Congress, giving a first-hand account of the legislation that went through the House and Senate in 1972.
This video provides a great overview of primary and secondary sources: