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Primary, secondary and tertiary sources: Secondary sources

Navigating the research process


A secondary source is a journal article written by a content expert and supported with relevant, cited primary sources. 

Secondary sources are found in academic journals. To lend support to the author's expertise an article will often be peer-reviewed, meaning it has been examined by other subject experts for accuracy before publication. For a history paper, these secondary sources will be written by historians. For a science paper, the experts writing the article will be scientists. The article should include footnotes and/or a bibliography of sources used.

Secondary sources are not found in reference databases and only rarely are found on the open internet.

Your paper should pose a debatable question and then argue for a particular viewpoint or opinion. In this step you'll examine the work of other researchers to see if there are differences of opinion on your topic. If you are only finding opinions or analysis on one side of the question you should approach the topic from a different angle, or choose a different topic. 

Finding secondary sources in Menlo School Library databases

Please note: there are no secondary sources in the ABC-Clio databases. Those resources only include primary and tertiary sources.