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Specialized Databases for Technical Topics

Selected Research Guides

Use the UCC Library Search Box below to find articles in academic and trade journals, news and magazine articles, print books, eBooks, streaming video, patents, and more!

Source Types

Primary sources are original sources of information that have not yet been interpreted. This information comes directly from real life data or from the time of an event. 

Examples Include:

  • Diaries, speeches, autobiographies
  • Works of art (literature, plays, music, photographs, paintings, etc...)
  • Historical documents (e.g., letters) and artifacts 
  • Data from a research study
    • FYI: Scientific journal articles that report the results of original research are considered primary sources
  • Legal documents (wills, birth certificates, etc...)
  • News reporting that occurs when an event happens

The infographic below was created by a Research & Instruction Librarian at Cal Poly Pomona to help explain primary sources.  

infographic explaining what primary sources are


ShonnmharenCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Secondary sources give information about a topic and provide the author's interpretation of what it means. This information comes from a collection of primary-source data that is drawn together to provide a larger picture view of an event or to provide an opinion or review. The author will have studied many other primary, secondary, and tertiary sources to come up with information about a topic. Secondary sources are generally meant to be read from start to finish (like an article or a book).

Examples Include:

  • Biographies: The author may have read other biographies (secondary sources) and have already primary sources such as the person's diaries and letters
  • Journal articles that review an existing body of research (as opposed to reporting the results of an original research study)
  • Reviews, summaries, or analyses of works of art
  • Historical studies
  • Most textbooks --- be sure to make sure they are not actually tertiary sources

The infographic below was created by a Research & Instruction Librarian at Cal Poly Pomona to help explain secondary sources. 

Infographic explaining secondary sources

Shonnmharen, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons 

Tertiary sources provide a summary or an overview of existing information about a topic. They are generally not meant to be read from start to finish, but to be used as reference material so that you can refer to them about specific pieces of information when you need them. The information they contain is a compilation of many other secondary and sometimes primary sources about a broad topic.


  • Encyclopedias
  • Dictionaries
  • Handbooks
  • Atlases
  • Manuals

The infographic below was based off of the infographics created by Shonnmharen.

Infographic explaining tertiary sources

Méndez & Teoli,  CC BY-SA 4.0

For more on source types see:

The table below shows a comparison of source types in selected disciplines. 


Primary Source

Secondary Source

Tertiary Source


Transcript of television news program

Newspaper article about person interviewed on the news

Guide to television news programs


Bureau of the Census population datasets

Working paper on demographics in Oregon and small business growth

Statistical Abstract of Oregon


Focus group interview of teachers

Journal article about teaching methods

Handbook of effective teaching methods

Environmental Studies

Fieldwork data measuring glacial melting

Book on the impact of climate change

World atlas


Testimony before Congress

Television news report on Congressional hearing

Congressional committee website

Political Science

Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States

Biography of a president

Encyclopedia about American presidents


Clinical notes

Journal article about the psychological condition

Mental Measurements Yearbook

Social Work

Fieldwork observation of prison conditions

Research report on prison conditions

Directory of prison facilities


Survey of adolescent addiction to alcohol

Journal article about alcoholism among young adults

Textbook on addictions


Adapted from Comparison for Sources in Selected Social Science Disciplines by USC Libraries.

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Except where otherwise noted, content in these research guides is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.