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Computer Science: Background Sources

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources

Primary resources -- Found in "Get Journal Articles," these are sources from which original research is presented. Here, data is taken, analyzed, and presented for the first time. They represent original thinking and are considered the "gold standard" for reference IF they are peer reviewed. Remember, not all primary sources are peer-reviewed. You should confirm the source is peer reviewed before using it as a reference. They are usually found as journal articles or conference proceedings. 

Secondary resources -- Found in "Get Journal Articles," these are articles which compare, contrast, summarize or discuss information presented in primary literature.  These are often called "review" articles or "reviews." You can tell a secondary source by its lack of original data presented. These are good sources for finding primary sources through their references. Again, not all secondary sources are peer reviewed, and you should confirm the source is peer reviewed before using it as a reference. If peer reviewed, it is reasonable to use as a reference.

    Tertiary resources --Found in "Background Sources," these are books, encyclopedias, almanacs, reference books, etc. Basically any source that has condensed information in a way that allows the reader to "get up to speed" quickly on a subject. Usually the best, first place to start your research. References found within the source can lead to primary research, notable authors, and terminology that will assist you in the rest of your research. Tertiary sources themselves are not usually used as a reference, since the researcher should find the original source from which the tertiary version is based.

    Peer review--process by which articles are submitted to experts in the scientific discipline for comments and criticism before publication in a scholarly journal or presented in a peer reviewed conference. Peer reviewed journals are also called "refereed." Using the "Ulrichsweb" resource is an effective way to determine if the source, and its contents, are peer reviewed. Information and tools are found in "Bibliographic Help."