What are sources?
This section explains what sources are, and identifies primary, secondary and tertiary sources.
Sources in a piece of academic writing are the materials from which the writer gathers ideas and information.
Print sources such as books and journals are the most frequently used sources in academic writing.
Non-print sources such as music recordings, radio or television broadcasts or transcripts, internet sites, films or images may also be important sources in some disciplines.
Primary, secondary, and tertiary sources
It is useful to categorise sources as primary, secondary or tertiary. To understand the difference between them, you need to think about sources in terms of relative proximity to an original event or experience.
Which sources to use?
In academic writing, you should assume that you are required to use secondary and tertiary sources unless:
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