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The Research Process

A guide to start you on your research journey!


There are three types of sources:

Primary Sources: are original materials that contain direct evidence, first-hand testimony, or an eyewitness account of a topic or event that you are studying.  Please refer to the middle column on this page for more information and examples

Secondary Sources: are scholarly books and articles that use primary resources to solve research problems. For example: a biography on the World Wars, scholarly books and articles.

Tertiary Sources: Encylopedias, indexes, textbooks, and other reference sources that "report" on secondary sources. They provide summaries of or introduction of the topic.  Usually they do provide a list (bibliography) or additional primary and secondary sources!

I found something!! How can I tell if it is a Primary Source?

Below are some characteristics that can help you differentiate primary sources from those that are not (ie. secondary):


  • How does he/she or they know what they know?
  • Does the knowledge stem from personal experiece? Were they a witness?
  • Does the author cite several published reports? (ie. is there a bibliogrpahy?)


  • Why is the information being provided? Why is the article being written?
  • Are there references to other writings on this topic/event?


  • Is there a date of publication?
  • Is the date of publication close to the date of event that is being described/indicated?