6 pages
Word Count
2570 words
Cabrillo College
Course Code
Business Management

Research Paper

June 9, 2021
ENG2014 English for Business
Types of Sources
This section describes the distinctions between primary, secondary and tertiary research
sources. Note that "primary" and "secondary" in this document refer to their standard usage in
the classification of academic source material. These definitions are thus not equivalent to "the
main sources I plan on using" and "possible other things I might look at" (or similar
The 'Nutshell' Relationship of Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources
Suppose you were beginning research on a wholly unknown topic. Your first step would be to
consult general references such as Wikipedia, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, etc. These are
examples of "Tertiary" sources general explanations condensed from 'common knowledge'
on the topic intended for a broad public audience. Tertiary sources are usually not credited to
a particular author. They are intended only to provide a superficial overview of what the topic
includes, its basic terminology, and often references for further reading (which would usually
be Secondary sources, produced by established 'experts' on the topic). You might use other
tertiary sources, such as dictionaries, to get a fuller sense of definitions and meanings of the
field's terminology.
With a general concept of the topic now in mind, you would next consult as many different
secondary sources as possible to see what has already been written on the topic, at different
times and from different points of view, by other scholars ('experts' on the topic). "Secondary"
sources are thus works written on the topic in question by other researchers, whose work has
been based on Primary sources after consultation with the Secondary sources on the topic
which had existed at the time. The "Review of the Literature" component of full research papers
is precisely this wide-ranging review of what all known secondary sources currently say about
a given topic, as the foundation for the "new" information you plan to provide in your research.
For your own "new" view of the topic, guided by your review of what existing Secondary
sources already say, you would also consult Primary sources. Some of these may be the same
as other scholars have already consulted, some may be new that others had not consulted. Your
"new" research will usually identify new aspects of the topic which have emerged from your
study of primary sources that other scholars had either (a) not known to consult; or (b) consulted

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