Secondary sources describe, summarize, or discuss information or details originally presented in another source; meaning the author, in most cases, did not participate in the event. This type of source is written for a broad audience and will include definitions of discipline specific terms, history relating to the topic, significant theories and principles, and summaries of major studies/events as related to the topic. Use secondary sources to obtain an overview of a topic and/or identify primary resources. Refrain from including such resources in an annotated bibliography for doctoral level work unless there is a good reason.
Examples of a secondary source are:
- Publications such as textbooks, magazine articles, book reviews, commentaries, encyclopedias, almanacs
Locate secondary resources in NCU Library within the following databases:
- Annual Reviews (scholarly article reviews)
- Credo Reference (encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks & more)
- Ebook Central (ebooks)
- ProQuest (book reviews, bibliographies, literature reviews & more )
- SAGE Reference Methods, SAGE Knowledge & SAGE Navigator (handbooks, encyclopedias, major works, debates & more)
- Most other Library databases include secondary sources.
Primary sources of information are original materials that often convey new ideas, discoveries, or information. These sources originate from the time period under study. Examples of primary sources include:
- original research studies (often in the form of journal articles in peer-reviewed publications), also called empirical studies (e.g. psychology)
- patents, technical reports
- original documents such as diaries, letters, emails, manuscripts, lab data/notes
- newspaper articles from the time period under study
- autobiographies, first-person accounts, case studies
- artifacts and archival material such as official documents, minutes recorded by government agencies and organizations, photographs, coins, fossils, natural specimens
- works of art such as literature, music, architecture, or painting
TIP: What is considered primary, secondary, or tertiary information may vary according to your field of study. When in doubt, ask your professor.