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BIO 241 - 242 - Organization of Life

Types of Sources

Primary Sources, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources

What’s the difference?


A Primary Source is original research, the first place a researcher publishes his or her findings. Examples: journal articles, conference presentations, technical reports, and laboraory or field data.

  • Contains a detailed description of the research methodology and results. 
  • List of references to articles that the research is based on or attempting to refute. 

A Secondary Source discusses, explains, describes, analyzes, or summarizes primary sources. Examples: books and review articles. 

  • Provides the citations (references) that will point to primary literature.

A Tertiary Source explains, describes or analyzes a group of secondary sources. Examples: annotated bibliographies, entries in encyclopedias or dictionaries.

  • Great place to find background information on a topic.