Adapted from The Craft of Research by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, c2008.
Solid research requires the use of all three types of sources. Primary sources will provide the raw data for your research, but you will also need encyclopedias, dictionaries, subject guides and other reference tools to gather background information on your topic and to identify the people, places, dates, organizations, and themes central to your topic.
Secondary sources such as books, scholarly journals, and newspaper articles synthesize current research and help put your subject in context. Secondary sources are also important for helping to position your own argument within the scholarly conversation on your topic.
Use library catalogs, databases, printed reference sources, the web, and the assistance of your subject librarian to identify, locate, and use primary, secondary, and tertiary sources.