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Communication Studies *: Tiertiary Sources

Research Guide for Communication Studies


Tertiary sources consist of information which is a collection of primary and secondary sources. Tertiary sources are good starting points for research projects because they often distill large amounts of information.

All contect is from a Literature Review please refer to the sub-tab under The Literature Review created by Dr. Robert Larabee.

Value of Tertiary Sources

Even more difficult in discerning the difference between a primary and secondary source is reviewing tertiary sources. Some writers don't make the distinction between tertiary and secondary because both types of materials do not represent original works (primary sources). However, for the purposes of reviewing the literature, it is important to understand how tiertiary sources can contribute to your overall search for relevant information for your paper.

Reviewing tertiary source material can be of value in improving your overall research paper because they:

  • often compile factual information in one place and to search for the data in mutliple sources takes time (e.g., searching for names of heads of state in an almanac),
  • lead the reader to additional sources. For example, rather than citing in your literature review a long list of additional sources on a topic, you can simply cite to a comprehensive bibliography compiled by another researcher,
  • distill large quantities of closely related information or data (e.g., a statistical compendium),
  • often contain references and bibliographies that can point you to key primary and secondary sources.

Examples of tiertiary sources you could review as part of your overall study include:
    * Abstracts;
    * Almanacs;
    * Bibliographies (also considered secondary);
    * Chronologies;
    * Dictionaries and Encyclopedias (also considered secondary);
    * Directories;
    * Fact books;
    * Handbooks;
    * Indexes, databases, search engines, and bibliographies used to locate primary and secondary sources;
    * Manuals;
    * Statistical compendiums;
    * Textbooks and course readers (may also be secondary).

Tertiary sources also include user-contributed online resources such as Wikipedia.