Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary: what's the difference?
Check out this video on "Primary, Secondary, Tertiary Resources" from the Beam Library at Oklahoma Christian University.
PRIMARY: materials represent an original work (text, painting, or item) and/or document an event at its occurence (photograph, diary entry, or letter).
SECONDARY: sources are analyses of, commentary on, critiques about, or responses to Primary Sources. Reputable secondary materials have been well-vetted via the peer-reviewed process. Subject specific encyclopedias are often considered seondary sources and great for consulting during initial research, however you generally do not want to use such sources for direct citation.
TERTIARY: items are often compilations of excerpts from Secondary Sources and can be used to identify themes or threads pertaning to concepts in a discipline.
Make sure you are using the appropriate type of resource required by your professor. If in doubt, just ask a librarian - we'll be glad to help!
Articles containing original research are fairly easy to spot. Look for the following segments in an article. The segments should be clearly labeled with headings.
An complete overview of the article often includes summarized findings and brief methodological notes.
Contains background information about the topic of study and should contain a clearly stated research question/goal.
This segment should provide a list of all the materials used and the methodology behind executing the experiment.
A good article should provide stepts detailed enough that another researcher can successfuly duplicate the experiment.
The results of the experiment should appear here. There should be raw data.
The raw data is then analyzed and conclusions are drawn from the data and a conclusion is reached.
The author has included citations for all of the sources they reference in their text.
Search for journals in the A-Z list to see if they are considered "peer reviewed".
The Library's article discovery service Full Text Finder makes it easy to locate journals and full-text articles. Publications are often available in multiple databases. For a specific article within a journal, choose the database with the correct coverage period for the volume and issue needed. Note: Journals listed with full text delay or an embargo date (i.e Full Text Delay: 1 year) means you can only access articles prior to 1 year from the date of your search.