Secondary sources

Secondary Sources of Information

A secondary source '...seeks to organize and distil primary information, place it in context and arrange it so that is more easily accessible such as in abstracting journals, encyclopaedias, data compilations and textbooks...' (1)

Why use secondary sources?
  • they can provide good overviews of a subject, so can be a good place to start your research if it is an area that you know little about
  • they can be useful to find keywords and key authors to aid further research
  • they can be a good source of suggestions for further reading

Encyclopaedias, textbooks and other books take a long time to publish and will therefore not cover very new or controversial topics, but they are a useful starting point to find out about established knowledge in your subject, and will be a useful source of keywords to inform your search.


1. Hopson, J. Primary literature. In: Wood, D. N. et al. (eds.) Information Sources in the Earth Sciences, 2nd edition. Bowker-Saur, London, 1989, pp. 16-39.