Research Sources – Know the Difference
Research projects are an integral component of curriculum. Students select an area of inquiry and then they explore to investigate the topic. As educators, we focus on helping students to develop competent research strategies and prepare them for success. Students should recognize authentic, trustworthy sources. They should also be aware of the different types of resources: primary, secondary, and tertiary sources of information. And, searching these sources in a logical order promotes a systematic, proficient, and comprehensive understanding.
In TechnoBiography, students are guided through the research process. They begin by looking at sample biographies, then brainstorm, complete a planning organizer, and finally investigate all three different types of sources of online data – primary, secondary, and tertiary – in a structured order.
Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources
Primary sources of information are original artifacts, documents, recordings, or other sources of information about a topic. They offer first hand, original evidence. For students studying a biography, here are some examples of primary sources:
|What did the person say or write?
|What documents relate to life events?
|What did the person make?
|What did the person do?
|What awards of recognition were given?
|What items did the person own?
|Primary Source Tips:
Secondary sources of information are created after an event has occurred or by someone who did not experience or participate in the event first-hand. In the case of a biography, the information was written or recorded by someone else about the person. Secondary sources often include opinions about the event or person so they have value in analyzing its importance or significance.
|Secondary Source Tips:
Tertiary sources of information offer broad introductory overviews of a topic gathered from a variety of sources. They have usually been contributed to by a number of authors and reviewed to ensure accuracy. Examples are encyclopedias or dictionaries. Like secondary sources, they may contain an interpretation or evaluation in addition to facts.
Order is Important in Research
When conducting a research project, knowing the different types of sources of information is essential. But the resources should be used in a logical order too. Start with a basic outline, then move on to find out the importance of the topic, and finally explore the original evidence:
- Begin with tertiary sources to get a general summary from a variety of sources.
- Search secondary sources to gain a deeper understanding and discover other viewpoints and perspectives on the topic.
- Then examine primary sources to view first-hand, original artifacts or evidence. Study the raw data to draw your own conclusions.