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Library Guides

Library Skills

Types of Information

Information Sources can be broadly divided into: PrimarySecondary and Tertiary

This video outlines the key differences between primary, secondary and tertiary sources in academic research.

                            Primary Information Sources

These are original materials which provide direct or first hand information about an event or where new research or theories are revealed. They have not been interpreted, condensed or evaluated by a second party but provide the material on which further research is based.

Primary information sources can include:

  • Artwork
  • Literary works
  • Court records
  • Speeches
  • Diaries
  • Photographs
  • Conference proceedings

Our Special Collections contain a wealth of primary source material

Secondary Information Sources

These provide an interpretation, analyses or commentary about other sources.  They are good for providing a more digested overview of a topic.

Secondary information sources can include:

  • Books
  • Journal articles that do not include new research
  • Dissertations
  • Commentaries
  • Analytic newspaper articles

Tertiary Information Sources

These provide lists, indexes and collections of primary and secondary source materials.  They are sources that are used to record facts and brief descriptions of key information and can be useful when encountering a topic that is new to you.

Tertiary information sources include:

  • Statistics
  • Dictionaries
  • Encyclopaedias
  • Directories
  • Manuals