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History 101: The Rise of European Civilization: Getting Started

What's a tertiary source?

Tertiary sources are excellent starting points!  They consist of information synthesized from primary and secondary sources.  Examples include:

  • Almanacs
  • Chronologies
  • Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
  • Directories
  • Fact books
  • Guidebooks
  • Indexes, abstracts, bibliographies used to locate primary and secondary sources
  • Manuals
  • Textbooks

These resources give you succinct overviews of your topic, explain scholarly arguments, point out interesting questions, and refer you to especially key sources. 

Online Subject Encyclopedia Collections

Start your research by consulting these collections of subject encyclopedias.  If you have any difficulties at all, please email Peggy Burge for assistance and recommendations.

Print Reference

Several excellent subject encyclopedias on various aspects of medieval history are available in the print reference section on the first floor of Collins Library.  A few highlights:

Using Subject Encyclopedias

Textbooks and encyclopedias are examples of tertiary sources--sources that provide overviews of information on a topic.  In the field of history, tertiary sources often provide not just an overview of the topic, but also discuss how a topic has been analyzed, interpreted, and argued about among scholars over time (historiography). 

Whenever you have questions about the people, places, events, documents, and themes in the primary sources you are analyzing, subject encyclopedias should be your go-to source.

Entries in subject encyclopedias typically are not quoted from or cited as evidence in a final paper.   However, the entries can help you identify additional secondary sources that may help you situate your primary sources in their historical context, and these sources would be cited in the final paper.

Recommended Subject Encyclopedias

Subject Guide

Peggy Burge's picture
Peggy Burge
Contact:
Collins Library 119
253.879.3512

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Fall 2020

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