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Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources: Home

Use this research guide to learn more about primary, secondary, and tertiary sources

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Collection Overview

Welcome to the DVC Library subject guide for Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources. If you have any questions about this guide, please contact the reference librarian.

Primary sources include:

  • Accounts by an eyewitness or the first recorder of an event, in written or other form, including microform and electronic reproduction. Examples are diaries, autobiographies, letters, minutes of meetings, news footage, newspaper articles.
  • Data obtained through original research, statistical compilations or legal requirements. Examples are reports of scientific experiments, U. S. census records, public records.
  • Creative works such as poetry, music, or art
  • Artifacts such as arrowheads, pottery, furniture, and buildings.

Secondary sources are works that interpret the primary data, such as a book about eating disorders, a journal article about the role of tobacco in the colonial economy, or a critical review of a play.


Tertiary sources are works that compile, analyze, and digest secondary sources. General and specialized encyclopedias are familiar examples of tertiary sources.