Tertiary source

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For Wikipedia's policy on tertiary sources, see WP:TERTIARY.
Not to be confused with Tertiary sector.

A tertiary source is an index and/or textual consolidation of primary and secondary sources.[1][2][3] Some tertiary sources should not be used for academic research, unless they can also be used as secondary sources or to find other sources.[4]

Overlap with Secondary Sources[edit]

Depending on the topic of research, a scholar may use a bibliography, dictionary, or encyclopedia as either a tertiary or a secondary source.[1] This causes difficulty in defining many sources as either one type or the other.

In some academic disciplines the distinction between a secondary and tertiary source is relative.[1][3]

In the United Nations International Scientific Information System (UNISIST) model, a secondary source is a bibliography, whereas a tertiary source is a synthesis of primary sources.[5]

Types of Tertiary Sources[edit]

As tertiary sources, encyclopedias and textbooks attempt to summarize and consolidate the source materials into an overview, but may also present subjective commentary and analysis (which are characteristics of secondary sources).

Index, bibliographies, and databases may not provide much textual information, but as aggregates of primary and secondary sources, they are often considered tertiary sources.

Almanacs, guide books, survey articles, timelines and user guides are also examples of tertiary sources.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Primary, secondary and tertiary sources.". University Libraries, University of Maryland. Retrieved 07/26/2013
  2. ^ "Tertiary Information Sources". Old Dominion University -- ODU Libraries. September 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Tertiary sources". James Cook University.
  4. ^ "Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Resources". University of New Haven.
  5. ^ Søndergaard, T. F.; Andersen, J.; Hjørland, B. (2003). "Documents and the communication of scientific and scholarly information: Revising and updating the UNISIST model". Journal of Documentation 59 (3): 278. doi:10.1108/00220410310472509.  edit