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Writing 100 (Antoine, Spring 2024)

Advanced Writing

Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources

Primary sources provide first-hand observations or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They are created by witnesses or recorders at or near the time of the event. They have not been filtered through further interpretation or evaluation. 

Primary sources may include

  • Original Documents: diaries, speeches, letters, interview transcripts, news footage, autobiographies, reports, census records, data from an experiment, journal articles (e.g. original research in the sciences)
  • Creative Works: poetry, plays, novels, music scores, films, paintings
  • Objects: clothing, buildings, tools, furniture

Secondary sources are works that analyze, assess or interpret a historical event, era or phenomenon. They may use primary sources to write a review, critique or provide an interpretation -- often well after the event.

Secondary sources may include

  • journal articles, editorial articles, literacy criticism, book reviews, biographies, textbooks

Tertiary Sources are those used to identify and locate primary and secondary sources.

Tertiary sources may include

  • Reference Works: encyclopedias, abstracts
  • Lists or Collections: bibliographies, finding aids
  • Search Tools: library database or catalog, indexes

Activity: Identifying Sources

Instructions: With your peers, look at the following information sources. Determine if it is a primary source OR a secondary source? What factors have influenced your answer?

Source #1

Freshwater Harmful Algal Blooms: Causes, Challenges, and Policy Considerations (Congressional Research Report)

  • look for the PDF to download

Source #2

Marks-Block, Tony, et al. "Revitalized Karuk and Yurok cultural burning to enhance California hazelnut for basketweaving in northwestern California, USA." Fire Ecology 17.1 (2021): 1-20.

Source #3

Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) Incidents Reports Map (State Water Resources Control Board)

Source #4

Surface Water – Freshwater Harmful Algal Blooms (California Government)