According to the definition in your Gen Ed 1123 Writing Guide, tertiary sources are publications that "collect," "distil" and synthesize primary and secondary sources.
In disciplines like history, primary sources provide immediate or first-hand records of an event or phenomenon. Produced just ahead of, during, or just after this event or phenomenon, they exist closest in time to what they bear witness to.
Tertiary sources are the furthest out. They come much later in the information-generation process, after a substantial number of secondary sources (critical studies of the first-hand evidence) has been produced.
Tertiary sources can help us make sense of large bodies of information because they identify patterns, trends and tendencies, suggest future research directions, and note remaining knowledge gaps.
In other words, they help us see the forest in the trees.
It may seem counterintuitive to start at two removes from primary evidence, but the tertiary source approach to topic generation can give you the framework, general understanding, and perspective that's sometime necessary to proceed.
Think about the reasons you use Wikipedia, perhaps the world's most famous tertiary source: for background, for search language, for the bibliographies, which can give you research leads. Much more nuanced types of tertiary sources can satisfy those needs in your Gen Ed 1123 work: they're described under the tabs, above.
OISO compiles authoritative, timely, and balanced scholarship from a global perspective on the history, peoples, beliefs, individuals, and cultures that constitute the world of Islam. Here's why we recommend you start with it:
The experts at the Harvard Writing Program offer some excellent tips on how to use sources to locate your own position ("voice") within the scholarly conversation.
Hover over each tip for more advice on common ways to establish what's at stake:
1. Challenge an initial read.
2. Challenge a published view.
3. Explain an inconsistency, gap, or ambiguity.
4. Explain unexpected conclusions.
5. Intervene in a debate.
6. Point out how a piece of evidence encapsulates a larger issue.
7. Point out how an insignificant moment is actually critical.
8. Point out the limits of the existing literature.
9. Point out a problem others don’t usually see.