Using Texas State Libraries for research you will come upon a large number of resources and several different types of resources. The boxes below will help explain those different types and when best to use a primary source versus a secondary source versus a tertiary source.
Primary sources are the first hand observations of an event, whether that be a historical occasion or a scientific experience, or an original work of art or literature.
Examples of Primary Sources
- Autobiographies/ Memoirs
- Initial reports of event from periodicals
- Legal briefs
- Statistics (census reports, economic reports)
Other types of Primary Sources
- Original works of art or literature
- Data from a scientific experiment
Pros of using Primary Sources
- "Straight from the horse's mouth"
- Little opportunity for "spin" to be applied
Cons of using Primary Sources
- Single point of view
- Little opportunity for reflection or analysis
Secondary Sources are the works that have interpreted, analyzed, evaluated, and reflected upon information provided from Primary Sources and earlier Secondary Sources.
Examples of Secondary Sources
- Scholarly Articles
Pros of using Secondary Sources
- Opportunity to accumulate, analyze, and reflect upon a number of view points, including the knowledge of what was to become.
Cons of using Secondary Sources
- Time and reflection allow for "spin" to occur.
Reference resources like encyclopedias, almanacs, dictionaries, and indexes are considered tertiary sources. These types of resources should not be the basis of a research paper, despite their value or necessity.