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Types of Information

Peer Review

Courtesy of libncsu, Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SA US license

Primary Sources

Historical photo

Hans Weingartz Leonce49

"Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They are created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring, but primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later."

 - Yale University, Primary Sources at Yale 2008

Primary sources can include:

  • Newspaper articles
  • Photographs
  • Diary entries
  • Letters
  • Speeches
  • Pamphlets
  • Court files
  • Eye witness accounts

A quick guide to using Primary sources from the DoHistory website.

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources comment on, describe, discuss, analyse, and interpret primary sources of information. For this reason, they are usually created after the event or time period recorded by the primary sources they use. Examples include;

  • textbooks
  • journal articles
  • commentaries
  • biographies
  • literature reviews
  • Indexes


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Tertiary Sources

Tertiary sources are similar to secondary sources in that they both interpret primary sources of information. Tertiary sources, however, are usually condensed summaries and are useful as general reference material, offering definitions and overviews when you are starting on your research. Examples include;

  • Encyclopaedias
  • Dictionaries
  • Handbooks


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

To find tertiary sources in MultiSearch;

Know Your Sources

Definitions and Background Information

Use Multisearch to search for electronic or hardcopy reference sources in the library.

  1. Go to Advanced Search  
  2. Select Any field in the first search box to search for handbook OR dictionary OR encyclopedia
  3. Select Subject in the second box to search for anthropology

This will search for the required reference type across the relevant subject area;

Anthropology reference sources

Why Can't I Just Google?

Video courtesy of La Trobe University Library