History Subject Guide : Primary/Secondary Sources

Types of Periodicals

Different types of publications have different purposes and different audiences. When we talk about journals/magazines, we can usually divide these publications into three broad categories: scholarly journals, popular magazines, and trade publications.

Check Ulrich's to see if a journal is peer-reviewed/referreed

Scholarly Journals Trade Publications Popular Magazines Newpapers
Current Psychology Research and Reviews Information Today Psychology Today New York Times
Geographical Perspectives Aviation Week and Space Technology Discover USA Today

Types of Resources

Primary Sources

Primary sources are original materials on which other research is based. It includes documents such as poems, diaries, court records, interviews, surveys, fieldwork, and some newspaper articles. It also includes research results generated by experiments, which are published as journal articles in some fields of study.

They are also sets of data, such as census statistics, which have been tabulated, but not interpreted.

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources describe or analyze the primary sources.

Examples of secondary sources include: dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, and books and articles that interpret or review research works.

Tertiary Sources

Examples of tertiary sources includes indexes and abstracts which serve to locate secondary and primary sources. An index will provide a citation which fully identifies the work: author, title of article, title of journal or book, publisher and date of publication, For a journal it will include the volume, issue and pagination. An abstract is a summary of the work being cited. Many indexes and abstract are available now online.

Subject Area Primary Source Secondary Source Tertiary Source
Art Original artwork Article critiquing the piece of art Art Index
History Slave diary Book about the Underground Railroad American: History and Life
Literature Poem Book on a particular genre of poetry MLA
Computer Science Original research published as a journal article Introductory textbook on programming INSPEC
Sociology Indian Education Act of 1972 Journal article on Native American education ERIC