Research Basics

New to research? Not sure where to begin? We've collected some helpful links and tips below to get you started.


What is a primary source?

  • A primary source is a first-hand, original work. Examples include novels, poetry, drama, music, and art.


What is a secondary source?

  • Secondary sources interpret primary sources. They may be a critical analysis of a novel, poem, or play. Analyzing primary sources helps students develop critical thinking skills by examining meaning, context, bias, purpose, point of view, etc. Secondary sources are used in essays/independent studies to support the thesis statement. Examples include journal articles, biographies, or books that use information from many different sources.


Where can I find secondary sources?

  • Books
  • Databases
    • Find secondary sources using our virtual collection. Searching these databases provides you with access to books and journals. The results are read in an online format but they should not be confused with an Internet source.
    • The main literature databases are:
      • Literature Criticism Online
      • Literature Resource Center
    • Other databases to try include:
      • NoveList
      • NoveList K-8
    • *Note - If you're outside the Library you'll be prompted for a USERNAME and PASSWORD.  Your USERNAME is your Library Card Number and your PASSWORD is your PIN.


How do I cite secondary sources?

These websites can help with listing the sources used during your research:


How can I tell if a source is accurate or not?

We are living in interesting but increasingly strange times. What was envisioned as the golden age of information is actually more like the age of misinformation where opinions are cheap, everyone is an expert, the level of discourse is low and we are confronted on a daily basis with “fake news” and “alternative facts.”

Tips From TBPL Staff:

  1. Ask questions about where the information is coming from:
    - When was it published or posted?
    - Who put it out there?
    - Can the information be traced back to a credible source?
    - What sort of bias is coming through?
    - Is it based on fact, opinion, or propaganda?
    - Is there any copyright information available?
  2. Consider the relevancy and intended audience: e.g., is the information framed in a way to elicit a specific reaction?
  3. Look for ways in which to validate the information and/or its source(s).
  4. Consider other sides to the argument or additional facts and sources that can provide a fuller understanding of the topic.
  5. Review the evidence provided to support the information and apply the above tips to that as well.
  6. Think critically - fake news is everywhere these days.


To learn more about information and media literacy, check out the resources listed below:

C.R.A.A.P Test  (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose)

Toronto Public Library - How to Spot Fake News

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