This video offers a thorough process of taking notes on academic papers, with slight emphasis on learning terminology and using Evernote.
This video excels at describing and highlighting the anatomy of scholarly articles and their value to readers.
When evaluating the quality of the information you are using, it is useful to identify if you are using a Primary, Secondary, or Tertiary source. By doing so, you will be able recognize if the author is reporting on his/her own first hand experiences or relying on the views of others.
One easy way to think about the differences between these types of sources is to think of them as concentric rings on a target. Primary sources are the bullseye (a first-person account of an event or experience), secondary sources are the first ring (one step removed, commenting on and interpreting the primary source), tertiary are the outer ring (compiling and pointing the researcher to the secondary sources).
When Would I Use This Type?
A primary source is a first person account by someone who experienced or witnessed an event. This original document has not been previously published or interpreted by anyone else.
First person account of an event
First publication of a scientific study
Speech or lecture
Letters between two people
Historical documents, e.g. Bill of Rights
Primary sources provide first hand accounts of events that were documented later.
A primary source is useful if you want to provide direct evidence of an event or time in history.
When you use primary sources you have to start by asking a lot of questions about the source itself. It's important to consider who created the document and for what purpose, among other things.
A secondary source is one step removed from the primary original source. The author is reexamining, interpreting and forming conclusions based on the information that is conveyed in the primary source.
Newspaper reporting on a scientific study
Review of a music CD or art show
Scholarly books or articles
Secondary sources are how we often engage with scholarly writings and learn about past events.
Sources that have been published very recently will reflect the current theories and understanding of the past. If you use a secondary source that was published decades ago, it is important to know what subsequent scholars have written on the topic and what criticism they have made about the earlier work or its approach to the topic.
A tertiary source is further removed from primary source. It leads the researcher to a secondary source, rather than to the primary source.
Index to articles
|Often textbooks are a good way to think about tertiary sources, they can lead you to additional secondary sources.
Factual information that provides an overview of or context for a topic.
Sources that will be analyzed or interpreted
Critical views from other scholars or commentators that can be agreed with, disagreed with, or built upon.
The method and theories used to shape a research methodology, approach, or analytical lens
Encyclopedia entries, overviews in books, statistics, historical newspaper articles
Text of a novel, field observation, focus group data, interviews, performances, results from an experiment
Scholarly articles, books, critical reviews, editorials
references to theorists (Foucault, Said) or theories (feminism, critical race theory), information on a research methodology
Where are you most likely to use these sources?
Body, Results section
Body, sometimes in the Introduction or a Literature Review
Methods section, sometimes referenced in the Introduction or the Body
Rather than only think about whether a source is primary, secondary, or tertiary; instead think about how you are going to use that source. If you have at least one source in each category, your writing will be stronger and your arguments will be better supported.
Sources can serve more than one function!
For instance, a journal article could:
However, some sources are focused on a single function. For example, an encyclopedia entry on “Alzheimer's disease” is likely to only serve as background information.
The BEAM method is from: Bizup, Joseph. “BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing.” Rhetoric Review 27.1 (2008): 72-86.
This page is adapted from "Source Functions: Background, Exhibits, Argument, Method (BEAM)" from the University of California Merced Library.
BEAM title image: 10. Column and Beam Details - Hantz House, 855 Fairview Drive, Fayetteville, Washington County, AR Drawings from Survey HABS AR-54 created by the Historic American Buildings Survey is in the Public Domain.
Background icon: Investigation created by Nhor Phai is used under Flaticon.com's license.
Exhibit icon: Encyclopedia created by Talha Dogar is used under Flaticon.com's license.
Argument icon: Application created by Freepik is used under Flaticon.com's license.
Method icon: Pie chart created by Freepik is used under Flaticon.com's license.