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Honors College Co-Curricular Workshops

Complete your honors project successfully through this workshop series. This will help students build research, writing, and presentation skills.

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources

Primary sources provide firsthand evidence gathered by the author(s).  They may be created or documented at the time of an event as in

  • scholarly research articles including research articles, clinical reports, and case studies,
  • diaries,
  • speech,
  • letters,
  • photographs,
  • manuscript,
  • eye-witness accounts, 
  • conference proceedings,
  • newspaper reports, 
  • creative works such a music, poetry, video, photography.

A primary source may also be documented at a later time (but are still firsthand accounts), such as

  • autobiographies,
  • memoirs,
  • oral histories.

This section is forthcoming.  Ask a librarian for the best places. More to come...

Secondary sources describe, interpret or analyze information obtained from other sources (often primary sources).  Examples of secondary sources include

  • print and electronic books, 
  • scholarly review articles, 
  • Biography
  • Commentaries, criticisms;
  • Histories;
  • Journal articles (depending on the disciple can be primary);
  • Magazine and newspaper articles (this distinction varies by discipline);
  • Web site (may also considered primary).

Tertiary sources compile and summarize mostly secondary sources.  Examples include

  • Reference publications such as encyclopedias, bibliographies or handbooks.
  • Almanacs;
  • Chronologies;
  • Directories;
  • Fact books;
  • Guidebooks;
  • Indexes, abstracts, bibliographies used to locate primary and secondary sources;
  • Manuals;
  • Dictionaries and Encyclopedias (also considered secondary);
  • Textbooks (also considered secondary).
Research field Primary source

Art

Literature

  • Paintings and art objects
  • Films and performances
  • Novels and poems

Communication  

Social studies

  • Interview transcripts
  • Recordings of speeches
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Social media posts
History
  • Letters and diaries
  • Photographs and video 
  • Official documents and records
  • Physical objects as you would see in a museum or archive
Law and politics
  • Court records
  • Legal texts
  • Government documents
Sciences
  • Empirical studies
  • Statistical data
"Titanic Sinks Four Hours After Hitting Iceberg; 866 Rescued by Carpathia, Probably 1250 Perish'; Ismay Safe, Mrs. Astro Maybe, Noted Names Missing." New York Times. 16 Apr. 1912.
Primary: 22 votes (61.11%)
Secondary: 12 votes (33.33%)
Tertiary: 0 votes (0%)
Has elements of more than one: 1 votes (2.78%)
Not sure: 1 votes (2.78%)
LINK TO SOURCE: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 36
A dictionary of philosophy of religion
Prinary: 0 votes (0%)
Secondary: 3 votes (9.38%)
Tertiary: 28 votes (87.5%)
Has elements of more than one: 1 votes (3.13%)
Not sure: 0 votes (0%)
LINK TO SOURCE: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 32
Letter From a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr.
Primary: 30 votes (96.77%)
Secondary: 0 votes (0%)
Tertiary: 0 votes (0%)
Has elements of more than one: 1 votes (3.23%)
Not sure: 0 votes (0%)
LINK TO SOURCE: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 31
CDC: Centers for Disease Control-National Center for Health Statistics
Primary: 20 votes (55.56%)
Secondary: 9 votes (25%)
Tertiary: 2 votes (5.56%)
Has elements of more than one: 5 votes (13.89%)
Not sure: 0 votes (0%)
LINK TO SOURCE: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 36
Occupational Outlook Handbook
Primary: 4 votes (12.12%)
Secondary: 5 votes (15.15%)
Tertiary: 20 votes (60.61%)
Has elements of more than one: 4 votes (12.12%)
Not sure: 0 votes (0%)
LINK TO SOURCE: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 33
DeNavas-Walt, Carmen, and Bernadette D. Proctor. "Income and Poverty in the United States: 2017; Current Population Report." United States Census: Department of Commerce. Sept. 2017.
Primary: 17 votes (56.67%)
Secondary: 8 votes (26.67%)
Tertiary: 1 votes (3.33%)
Has elements of more than one: 2 votes (6.67%)
Not sure: 2 votes (6.67%)
LINK TO SOURCE: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 30
The Umbrella Academy: Dallas vol 2 (Paperback – Illustrated)
Primary: 21 votes (65.63%)
Secondary: 5 votes (15.63%)
Tertiary: 1 votes (3.13%)
Has elements of more than one: 2 votes (6.25%)
Not sure: 3 votes (9.38%)
LINK TO SOURCE: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 32
The complete illustrated guide to Hinduism : a comprehensive guide to Hindu and philosophy, its traditions and practices, rituals and beliefs
Primary: 1 votes (3.23%)
Secondary: 9 votes (29.03%)
Tertiary: 17 votes (54.84%)
Has elements of more than one: 4 votes (12.9%)
Not sure: 0 votes (0%)
LINK TO SOURCE: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 31
Scanlon, PD, et. al. "Smoking cessation and lung function in mild-to-moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The Lung Health Study." American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 191.3 (2015). Web.
Primary: 15 votes (45.45%)
Secondary: 15 votes (45.45%)
Tertiary: 3 votes (9.09%)
Has elements of more than one: 0 votes (0%)
Not sure: 0 votes (0%)
LINK TO SOURCE: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 33
Endangered species : Contemporary world issues
Primary: 2 votes (6.25%)
Secondary: 9 votes (28.13%)
Tertiary: 14 votes (43.75%)
Has elements of more than one: 7 votes (21.88%)
Not sure: 0 votes (0%)
LINK TO SOURCE: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 32
Museum of Fine Arts Houston (website)
Primary: 15 votes (42.86%)
Secondary: 7 votes (20%)
Tertiary: 6 votes (17.14%)
Has elements of more than one: 5 votes (14.29%)
Not sure: 2 votes (5.71%)
LINK TO SOURCE: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 35
Rene' Magritte's The Memoirs of a Saint (artwork on the Menil Museum website)
Primary: 29 votes (76.32%)
Secondary: 4 votes (10.53%)
Tertiary: 2 votes (5.26%)
Has elements of more than one: 3 votes (7.89%)
Not sure: 0 votes (0%)
LINK TO SOURCE: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 38

Now is the time for you to think about your topic and research options.  Inform the class about your current research. Then tell us what type of sources you could use in each category.  

For example:

  • I am studying Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
  • Primary Source-the novel
  • Secondary Source-academic journal articles/literary criticism written about the themes in the work OR a biography about her life
  • Tertiary Source-dictionary of literary terms

Now, it is your turn!

Subject Primary Secondary Tertiary
Art Painting Critical review of the painting Encyclopedia article on the artist
History Civil War diary Book on a Civil War Battle List of battle sites
Literature Novel or poem Essay about themes in the work Biographical dictionary 
Political science Geneva Convention Article about prisoners of war Chronology of treaties

Table from LACC

Primary Source Examples

Government documents

Time period photograph

Silent Film

Poetry

Official music video, song, lyrics

Secondary Source Examples

Magazine article written about a historical event on its 50th anniversary.

Magazine article  written about an event on it's anniversary

Open access journal article

Online journal article

Printed book in the library

Online newspaper article

Online magazine article about a song/band.

Tertiary Source Examples

Chemistry Textbook

Specialized business encyclopedia, contains definitions and information about many facets of American business

Specialized Dictionary of Terms and Vocabulary

Specialized encyclopedia, compilation of facts and names found elsewhere.

Basic handbook, compilation of style rules

Guidebook-compiles facts, definitions, background and history on a topic in one concise book.

Popular v. Scholarly

Time, Newsweek, and Rolling Stone are examples of
Newspapers: 0 votes (0%)
Journals: 0 votes (0%)
Magazines: 0 votes (0%)
Web page: 0 votes (0%)
Book: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 0
Houston Chronicle, The New York Times, and Chicago Tribune are examples of
Book: 0 votes (0%)
Web Page: 0 votes (0%)
Magazines: 0 votes (0%)
Newspapers: 0 votes (0%)
Academic Journals: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 0
Economic Review, Science, Journal of Accounting Research, and Leadership Quarterly
Book: 0 votes (0%)
Academic Journlas: 0 votes (0%)
Web pages: 0 votes (0%)
Magazine: 0 votes (0%)
Newspaper: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 0
Routledge, Cambridge University Press, Oxford UP, Sage and Wiley are examples of
Popular book publishers: 0 votes (0%)
Academic Book Publishers: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 0
Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, McMillan, and Simon and Schuster are examples of
Popular Book Publishers: 0 votes (0%)
Academic Book Publishers: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 0
Magazines are published
daily: 0 votes (0%)
weekly: 0 votes (0%)
monthly: 0 votes (0%)
annually: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 0
Newspapers are usually published
daily: 0 votes (0%)
weekly: 0 votes (0%)
monthly: 0 votes (0%)
annually: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 0
Academic Journals are published
annually: 0 votes (0%)
weekly: 0 votes (0%)
quarterly: 0 votes (0%)
monthly: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 0

For each question, identify whether the description best suits a popular or a scholarly article.

Language and writing style are easy to use and understand, so this is an article from a popular magazine.
Persistence of Coffea arabica and its relationship with the structure, species diversity and composition of a secondary forest in Brazil: 0 votes (0%)
America's Long Overdue Awakening to Systemic Racism: 0 votes (0%)
Crowds gather at Supreme Court to remember Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 0
There are numerous sources listed at the end of the article, in a bibliography or reference list.
Popular articles: 0 votes (0%)
Scholarly articles: 1 votes (100%)
Total Votes: 1
What does peer-review mean?
My classmate looked over my paper and it's ready to be submitted to my professor.: 0 votes (0%)
It's a process where instead of an editor reviewing the writing, the paper is scrutinized by several experts in the field to evaluate the quality and significance of the research.: 0 votes (0%)
An unbiased sampling process for qualitative research that involves researching a group of peers.: 0 votes (0%)
An academic version of a popularity contest.: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 0
Scholarly articles tend to be
broad focus and short in length.: 0 votes (0%)
a short article with a very narrow focus.: 0 votes (0%)
all over the place and super long.: 0 votes (0%)
narrow in focus and long in length.: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 0
The authors are experts in a specific field for which they are writing. The audience for their work usually consists of scholars, practitioners, and professionals in the field.
Scholarly: 0 votes (0%)
Popular: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 0
The language and writing style use technical language or jargon.
Scholarly: 0 votes (0%)
Popular: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 0
This is an example of an academic book publisher.
Penguin/Random House: 0 votes (0%)
Harper Collins: 0 votes (0%)
Harvard University Press: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 0
The author is an expert scholar in the law.
Trevor Noah: 0 votes (0%)
May-Britt Moser: 0 votes (0%)
Sonia Sotomayor: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 0
This has lots of advertisements and is a popular national newspaper.
Chicago Tribune: 0 votes (0%)
Newsweek: 0 votes (0%)
Medline Plus: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 0

Cover: The casing of the book. It will include the title and author on the front and spine. Typically covers are made with a harder material that the inner pages: cardboard, cardstock paper, leather, or fabric. 

Title Page: The book's title and all the authors' names will be listed. You will also find the publisher and place of publication listed at the bottom.

Verso: Meaning "on the turn side of the page"; found on the other side of the title page. You will find the copyright and publication dates. Hint: This is also a great place to find subject headings given to the book by the Library of Congress; great keywords!

Table of Contents: A list of Chapter headings and subheadings with the page number.

List of Diagrams, Charts, Photos, or Illustrations: Found in technical books, an additional contents list offers pages for figures found throughout the books.

Foreword: Generally it is written by someone other than the author as an introduction to the subject in the book.

Acknowledgments: This is where the author gives thanks to all those who have helped him or her write the book.

Preface: Written by the author, the preface introduces you to the author's thesis or argument for the book. It will give you an idea about the author's bias and the level of research conducted.

Chapters: Books are generally broken up into sections, or chapters, to organize the thoughts, into manageable subtopics, stories, or arguments.

Afterword: Extra information on the book's topic included at the back of the book.

Notes and Appendices: Additional information, charts, resources to support the information in the main areas of the book

Bibliography: Lists of resources the author used in his or her research for the book.

Glossary: A list of terms found at the back of the book. It is organized in alphabetical order with definitions for each term; like a dictionary.

Index: Found at the back of the book, the index is a detailed list of topics, people, places, and other significant terms found throughout the book. It is organized in alphabetical order and includes the page(s) where you will find that information. This is a great place to search for your keywords to evaluate how helpful the book may be for your research.

Author's Biography: Information about the author's professional life.

Grab your favorite book or a book that is easy to locate. Preferably, it should be an academic book, but any book will do. Share your book with us.

Locate these main parts:

1. Title page

2. Verso/-Copyright Information. subject terms/key words

3. Table of Contents

4. Index

When it comes to electronic books, the parts are not as easy to notice.  Let's check out this example.

Let's look at these journal articles.  Locate the main parts of each journal article.  The format is slightly different by discipline.

Locating Information

Keyword Searching is how you search most web search engines, like Google. You input the most significant words relating to your topic, and the search results pull all items that include your keywords. 

Subject Headings are the official words or phrases used to represent a concept in a particular database or catalog. Use these terms when searching a database to find relevant items on the same topic.

Each database uses its own set of subject headings, and it can be difficult to guess the terms used by a certain one. Look for a "Thesaurus" or "Subject Terms" list at the top of the database page to locate subject terms. 


 

Search the LSCS Library Catalog:


Keywords Anywhere   Subject   Title   Author


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