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Finding Primary Sources: Secondary and Tertiary Sources

Assistance with locating primary source material within and outside the WSU Libraries.

Secondary Sources--Articles

Secondary sources interpret or analyze an event or period of time. Journal articles are one type of secondary source. The following article databases are good starting points:

Search It  The Libraries' catalog incorporates a large variety of magazine and journal databases.  Use the default search scope 'Articles, Books, and More.'  In the advanced search you can limit to 'articles' in the Material Type pull-down list, or you can do the search with your keywords or subject terms and then limit to 'articles' in the left column under Refine My Results.  It is also possible to select peer-reviewed (scholarly) journals only.  The results of this search are all available in full text.  Click on 'Access Options' under the item information and the full-text link will appear at the top of the box.

Academic Search Complete   An interdisciplinary database of newspaper, magazine, and journal articles, some full-text within the database and some not--use the "Find It @WSU' link to navigate to full-text or request the article through interlibrary loan.

America: History & Life  Historical coverage of the United States and Canada from prehistory to the present.

Historical Abstracts  Citations and abstracts to publications covering the history of the world (excluding the United States and Canada) from 1450 to the present.

Secondary Sources--Books and Films

Use the Libraries' catalog, Search It, to look for books and documentary films on your topic.  Start with general keywords such as  flu 1918 if you are looking for information on the influenza pandemic of 1918. In the left column narrow your results by type such as print books or ebooks or DVD video.  Note the location information or link; ask for assistance in finding the item if you need help.

Filmaker's Library Online is a good source for documentary films.  The streaming video library has films in all academic subjects but particularly in  history, health, and social science topics.

Tertiary Sources

Reference resources such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbook, and biographical sources are types of tertiary sources.  In them you'll find background about an issues, events, or periods of time; information about people, definitions of terms, timelines, and summaries. 

Major online sets of reference sources:

See the libguide Presearch:  Exploratory and Background Reference Resources for more reference links.

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