Marymount California University Library

ID 230: Assignment #3 - Distinguishing & Selecting Between Primary, Secondary, & Tertiary Sources

What are Secondary Sources?

Secondary Sources provide interpretation, analyze, and assess a historical event, phenomenon, or era, generally utilizing primary sources to do so. These type of sources often offer a review or a critic. Secondary source can include books, speeches, journal articles, research reports, reviews and much more. These type of sources are written well after the events that are being researched.

Use secondary sources to see what others have discussed. They can be a good place to gather background information on a topic. You can also use secondary sources to explore what subtopics have already been explored on a given topic.   

Some examples of secondary sources include:

  • a novel
  • scholarly books
  • newspaper articles 
  • magazine articles
  • scholarly articles
  • textbooks 
  • review articles
  • literature reviews
  • biographies 


History:  Article analyzing Queen Elizabeth I's speech; book recounting battle history of World War II; biographies

Literature: Literary critiques such as an article that examines Cervantes' writing stylepaper discussing motifs in The Metamorphosis

Art: Lecture given about Michelangelo's techniques; Criticism or review of Picasso's painting

Social Sciences: News commentaries; Article analyzing results of mental illness study; book that discusses population trends over time; evaluations of social and government policy, law and legislation.

Natural Sciences: Review articles that evaluates the theories and works of others; article on the environmental impact of pollution

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