Skip to Main Content

Sources: Primary, Secondary, Tertiary

Source Definitions and Links

Remote Access

Access articles and electronic books from the Library's subscription databases from off-campus! When you click on a database, you will be prompted for your user name (your student ID) and PIN (the two-digit month and day of your birth in MMDD format). 

Example for student with ID number 88-123-4567 born February 25th:

User name: 881234567
PIN: 0225


OneSearch Library Catalog Tutorial

OneSearch Library Catalog Tutorial

This Fall 2022 Semester, the library is offering a new online OneSearch Library Catalog Tutorial.  The tutorial is available in our library catalog, in many of our library research guides, and on our library website.


Upon completion of the OneSearch Library Catalog Tutorial, library patrons should be able to:

1. Find the OneSearch online library catalog.

2. Search for and locate books and e-books, videos, articles, digital media, and more in the library's collection.

3. Request items from other LACCD libraries.


At the end of the tutorial, there is a short online quiz, which provides users feedback.

ProQuest Video Tutorial

Primary Sources

Primary sources are those which result from the inspiration of witnessing, or from participating in the situation, event or period under study, or may be an abstract product of it, such as statistics data.  Primary sources may be published or unpublished. They are first-hand accounts best cited when promoting a theory, criticism or claim.  The lines between primary, secondary and tertiary sources may sometimes blur.

Within the confines of this definition, primary sources might be any of the following (and more):
  • Archival maps
  • Art works – such as: lyrics, musical scores, paintings, poems, sculptures, etc.
  • Artifacts – such as: coins, fossils, furniture, periodic clothing, pottery, stamps, etc.
  • Articles
  • Audio and/or visual recordings
  • Clinical Notes (Psychology)
  • Codes, legislative bills, regulations, statutes, etc.
  • Court records
  • Diaries
  • Empirical research
  • Eyewitness accounts
  • Fieldwork data (Environmental)
  • Federal Register
  • Internet communications – such as: blogs, bulletin boards, chats, emails, etc.
  • Interviews
  • Legal documents – such as: birth/death certificates, contracts, marriage licenses, wills, etc.
  • Letters
  • Novels
  • Government documents – such as charters, etc.
  • Government compiled statistics
  • Patents
  • Photographs
  • Speeches
  • Surveys


Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources are those which analyze, criticize, and interpret primary sources of the time, event, or situation under study.  They are second-hand accounts that can be used when seeking background information, opinions, and subtopics of that which is under study. The lines between primary, secondary and tertiary sources may sometimes blur.

Within the confines of this definition, secondary sources may be any of the following (and more):
  • Articles (review)
  • Biographies
  • Critiques
  • Dissertations
  • Evaluations
  • Lectures
  • Monographs (books)
  • News commentaries
  • Study analysis
  • Thesis


Tertiary Sources

Tertiary Sources are those which cull and distil many primary and secondary sources together to provide an in-depth and objective description of that which is under study.  While typically the last sources to be published in the information cycle, tertiary sources are often the first sources to be used by researchers in need of a broad introduction into the event, situation or period that is under study. The lines between primary, secondary and tertiary sources may sometimes blur.

Within the confines of this definition, tertiary sources may be any of the following (and more):
  • Almanacs
  • Atlases 
  • Bibliographies
  • Chronology
  • Classification
  • Dictionaries
  • Directories 
  • Encyclopedias
  • Fact books
  • Guides
  • Handbooks
  • Textbooks


Contact Us

Chat with a librarian any time!

live help

Library Student Computer Support:

Library Hours

Fall 2023 In-Person Hours (Aug 28 - Dec 17)

Monday - Thursday: 8:30 AM - 8:00 PM
Friday: Closed
Saturday: 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Sunday and Holidays: Closed

Adjunct Librarian

Profile Photo
Tracie Hall
West Los Angeles College Library
Social: Flickr Page