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World History I - Pride: Research

Tertiary Sources

Tertiary Sources

Tertiary sources provide overviews of topics by synthesizing information gathered from primary and secondary sources. Examples of tertiary sources include textbooks, encyclopedias and other reference sources. Tertiary sources are not considered scholarly sources and should not be cited in your research.

We use tertiary sources in historical research to:

  • provide overview or survey information on a topic
  • build research vocabulary
  • ask important research questions that can be transformed into thesis statements 

Search these resources for tertiary material at a broad topic level, for instance Black Death or Mongols:

Mining Bibliographies

Reviewing Bibliographies for Scholarly Works and Primary Source Materials

Look at the list of references at the end of secondary and tertiary sources.  Make notes of any scholarly works, for example books published by academic presses, and primary source materials. Secondary book sources identified in bibliographies can be searched for by title in the HELM Catalog or SNAP!Search. The Internet is a useful resource for locating primary source material.

Finding Primary Sources

Finding primary sources online

Museums, libraries, and archives affiliated with colleges or universities are good resources for primary source material online. Consider historically appropriate terms when searching for primary source material.

Evaluating and interpreting historical research

Critically Evaluating Historical Materials
  • Evaluate each source to determine if it is primary or secondary, scholarly or popular and if you are using it appropriately
  • Understand there are gaps in the historical record
  • Think critically about the credibility of sources
  • Determine the credentials and intent of an author before using a source
  • Consider how the historical context in which the information was originally created, accessed, and distributed would affect its message
  • Contextualize primary and secondary source materials within the larger debates surrounding the writing of history

(Adapted from the American Library Association's Information Literacy Guidelines and Competencies for Undergraduate History Students)

Secondary & Primary Sources

Primary Sources

Primary source is a physical object created during the time under study. The creator is present during the experience so they can offer an inside view of a particular event, development, person or society.

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources interpret and analyze primary sources. Secondary sources are often referred to as one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may include primary sources in them. (e.g.  pictures, graphics, quotes or excerpts)

Search Tips for Finding Secondary Sources in Library Databases

Search Strategies that are transferable among resources

1. Use the Advanced Search screen for the AND connector to add additional concepts to your search statement and to narrow and focus results

Black Death AND religion

2. Think about broader, narrower, and related terms for concepts when initial search retrieves few or non-relevant results

Black Death AND antisemitism

3. Use Phrase Searching - if your results seem irrelevant and you want to search a phrase (two or more terms) in that exact order, enclose the phase in quotation marks

“Black Death” AND flagellants

4. Use Truncation - place the asterisk symbol at the stem of a word to search variant word endings (e.g. jew* will search, jew, jews, jewish)

"Black Death" AND jew*

Finding Books

Find secondary sources published as books or ebooks
Network Sharing and InterLibrary Loan Options for Getting Books

If the NSCC Library does not have the book on our shelves or electronically, HELM college libraries across the state and other affiliate libraries will lend books to NSCC students, faculty and staff.

Request books here

Finding Articles

Find secondary sources published as journal or magazine articles
InterLibrary Loan Options for Getting Articles

If the NSCC Library does not have access to the article you need, document delivery services are available to NSCC students, faculty and staff.

Request articles here

Finding Videos

Find secondary sources published as video documentaries

About This Guide

About This Guide: This guide contains links to subscription content provided by North Shore Community College Library, and free and open resources, that are recommended for historical research.

Search strategies and tutorials are included to increase success in using these resources.

Off Campus Access: Login to North Shore Community College Library electronic resources with your MyNorthshore account username and password.

Library Card and Account: Your NSCC ID is your library card and must be used to borrow library materials. Off site library use and access to your NSCC library account require a login. Your library account username is the 14 digit barcode on your NSCC ID beginning with 21991. Your library account password is your birthday in the following format MMDDYYYY.  

Personal Librarian: Christine Goodchild is the Personal Librarian for the history department at NSCC. Contact her for assistance using history resources and library services.

Stuck? Ask Your Librarian!

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Christine Goodchild
Danvers Campus Library, DB 237

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