Marymount California University Library

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

What are Tertiary Sources?

Tertiary Sources can help you find primary and secondary sources. These sources provide overviews by synthesizing information gathered from other resources. Tertiary sources are typically the last to be published in the information cycle.  Because it has been filtered through many reviewers, it tends to consist of highly reliable and accurate information, plus contain broad perspectives of topics.  

Use tertiary sources for a general overview of your topic and for background information for your research. 

Some examples of tertiary sources include: 

  • Bibliographies
  • Indexes
  • Abstracts
  • Encyclopedias
  • Textbooks
  • Almanacs
  • Atlases
  • Annotated Bibliographies 
  • Subject Encyclopedias
  • Directories
  • Dictionaries
  • Handbooks


History: A subject encyclopedia titled Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia vol. 5 Ead-Fur mentioning Elizabeth I; Annotated Bibliography found in the Oxford Bibliographies titled World War II Diplomacy and Political Relations by Gerhard L. Weinberg

Literature: Handbook to the Legacy & Odyssey of Don Quixote: Everything the armchair academic needs to know about the greatest novel ever written by Mark Colenutt;  The World Almanac and book of facts 2014, Frank Kafka. 

Art: The Dictionary of Art vol. 24 edited by Jane Turner, Pablo Picasso; Michelangelo. Britannica Academic, Encyclopedia Britannica 19 Jul. 2017. 

Social Sciences: Textbook titled Psychological Science: Modeling Scientific Literacy by Krause Ch. 13 Psychological Disorders

Natural Sciences: The Carbon Footprint Handbook edited by Subramanian Senthikannan Muthu  

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