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Political Science: Secondary Reference Sources

What are Secondary Sources?

A secondary source interprets or summarizes primary sources. These sources are generally one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may include photos or graphics, or quote the primary sources they refer to. Examples of secondary sources include:

  • Journal or magazine articles which analyze an event or information that originated elsewhere 
  • A book about the effects of policy written after the fact
  • A textbook or other non-fiction account recorded by a person or entity other than the original source.

About Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, Handbooks & Yearbooks

Dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, and yearbooks are quick resources which provide basic information on a variety of subjects.

Encyclopedias can be either general or subject specific. They offer general working knowledge of a subject and will often suggest additional lines of research not previously apparent to the researcher for more in-depth research. 

Dictionaries provide alphabetical lists of words with their definitions and examples of how those words are properly used. Like encyclopedias, dictionaries may be subject specific or general in scope.

Biographical Dictionaries outline the personal background, family, and achievements of notable people. Biographical dictionaries may be specific to a particular historical era or they may focus on a certain field or subject interest.

Atlases are a collection of maps bound into a single volume. They may be specific to one location or cover many locations. Atlases may also be topical in scope, covering the geography of a war, people group, natural resource, or commodity.

Gazetteers provide brief information about geographical locations but may or may not contain maps. Most gazetteers focus on a specific geographical theme.

Yearbooks are annual publications that provide the most recent information on a subject. It can stand alone or be part of a regular update to an encyclopedia or other reference work. 

Handbooks provide brief snippets of information on specific parts of a variety of subjects in a single volume.

Dictionaries, Encyclopedias & Handbooks - US Politics

  • Dictionary of American History 
  • Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy.
  • Encyclopedia of Governance
  • Encyclopedia of Human Rights
  • Encyclopedia of the American Constitution
  • Government, Politics, and Protest: essential primary sources
  • International Encyclopedia of Civil Society
  • Major Acts of Congress
  • Political Theories for Students
  • West's Encyclopedia of American Law