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Library Research Guides

Green Indigeneities: English 317/AmCult 301

A research guide for Susan Najita's Fall 2013 class.

Secondary Sources

What are secondary sources? A secondary source is a document that refers to primary source information, or information first discussed elsewhere.  Books are often secondary sources. Secondary sources offer some synthesis of primary sources.

Secondary sources are often appropriate references for citation.  

The Library catalog, Mirlyn, is the best place to learn what books are held in the University of Michigan Library.


Confused about Tertiary vs. Secondary?

Just remember that secondary and tertiary sources are relative to primary sources.  If an original poem is a primary source, then an article about the poem is a step removed from the poem, so could be a secondary source.  And an ecyclopedia article about the poet might be a tertiary source. Ultimately, sources can be both primary and secondary at the same time.

Strategies for finding relevant websites

  • Is there a governmental agency interested in your topic? (EPA, US Geological Survey, US Department of the Interior)
  • Is there a local government website that points you to relevant departments for your area (a U.S. state's environmental resources agency, for example)?
  • Is there a tribal website related to your topic?
  • What is the size of the geographic region impacted by your topic?
  • Is there a time period of importance related to your topic?
  • Is there a particular point of view or perspective related to your topic that interests you most?

Tertiary Sources

What are tertiary sources? Tertiary sources synthesize other sources to give a general overview of a topic. Encyclopedias and Wikipedia are examples of tertiary sources.

Tertiary sources are great for learning the background on a topic, as well as keywords, stakeholders, and experts associated with a topic. However, you never want to stop at the tertiary sources; instead, you want to continue your research to more specialized secondary and primary sources.