As a general starting point, for a question on primary sources there are now thousands of good websites, mostly on library pages, that give a detailed differentiation between primary and secondary sources, along with their compilations into tertiary sources. For a working definition of these terms, Ithaca College library has a webpage that gives a good description along with the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point website, which also provides good examples of each type of source.

This discipline grid from New York Institute of Technology can help students distinguish between primary and secondary sources for their respective disciplines.

In terms of how to search for primary sources using library resources, this library webpage from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provides good search tips - the techniques for the most part are transferable to our LibCat and databases, unless we do not carry one of the databases as listed. Moreover, there are many good websites and archives online that contain primary sources - this is a good list to consult for web-hosted primary sources.

Searching for secondary sources is quite easy, as you will mostly look for articles or books related to your topic, using your own keywords or database-specific subject terms. This webpage helps delineate types of secondary sources and some basic search resources, most of which TAMU libraries carries.

Furthermore, if you search our LibGuides compiled by TAMU librarians you will find in most discipline-specific LibGuides the distinction between primary and secondary sources.

For a more in-depth treatment of primary and secondary source distinctions or for quick reference, consult the webpage at New York Institute of Technology.

Remember to ask your professor or a librarian first if you are confused about if a source is primary or secondary, and by taking the time to learn the distinctions you will quickly master this important component of the research process.


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