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Shapiro Library

Graduate Student Research Guide

Appropriate for all SNHU graduate students or individuals conducting research for graduate or scholarly papers with Shapiro Library resources.

Types of Sources


You may be asked to use a number of different kinds of sources including Primary, Secondary, or Tertiary.

Primary Sources

Primary Sources consist of original materials--a first-hand account of something. This information has not been filtered through interpretation. Examples of primary sources include:

  • an original journal or diary
  • a novel, poem or play
  • original notes from an experiment or original research
  • an original letter
  • a piece of artwork or furniture, musical score, or theatrical performance

Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources are written after something has happened and has the benefit of hindsight. This information includes interpretations and evaluations of primary information. Examples of secondary sources include:

  • a critique of a poem, play, or piece of literature
  • a history book based on primary historical sources
  • a scientific report based on experimental notes
  • commentaries and criticisms
  • biographical works

Tertiary Sources

Tertiary Sources are a distillation and collection of primary and secondary information. They usually include or are based on a range of secondary sources. Examples of tertiary sources include:

  • almanacs
  • fact books
  • encyclopedias
  • chronologies
  • guidebooks
  • manuals
  • directories