You can enhance your searches in Library Catalog Search by using subject terms that describe materials by format. For example, if you enter your topic as a keyword in advanced search, you can also add subject terms that will specify a type of material related to that topic.
You can also add date ranges (e.g., 19th century) and geographic regions (Africa) as subject terms to focus in on the time period or area you are researching: e.g., biography AND “19th century” AND Norway.
Subject Terms that specify format:
In general, a primary source is closest to the event, person, idea, or period that you are studying.
Secondary sources discuss and analyze primary sources; they're called secondary sources because they are at least one step removed from the primary source.
So, if you're writing on Emily Dickinson's "Hope is the thing with feathers," the poem is your primary source and a critical article discussing the poem is a secondary source.
Sources that are even further removed (e.g., because they synthesize and describe material from secondary sources) are called tertiary sources. An encyclopedia article or a Wikipedia entry would be considered tertiary sources.
Are there exceptions?
Absolutely! Sometimes what we think of as secondary sources become primary sources, depending on how you are using them. For example, if you are analyzing how literary scholars from the 1950s talked about women's literature, you would be using scholarly articles and books from that period as primary sources. Whether a source is primary or secondary depends on what you are analyzing.
Literary or cultural sources:
Accounts that describe events, people, or ideas:
Finding Information about people:
Finding information about organizations:
Finding information about a place: