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ARTH 326: Romanesque and Gothic Art: Tertiary sources (overviews)

Tertiary sources

A good first step in any research project is to read overviews, also called "tertiary sources." Reading overviews will help you find interesting topics. After you've selected a topic, reading overviews will tell you what the most important aspects of that topic are, which gives you ideas about what to type in search boxes.

Overviews don't contain any original information -- they just summarize information from other sources. For this reason, don't cite them. Instead, use them as starting points to find sources that contain original information.

Examples of overviews:

Reference Books

A "reference book" is a book that contains lots of little summaries of information. They're called "reference books" because we refer to them to look up particular topics, instead of reading them all the way through. Encyclopedias are the most common type of reference book.

There are thousands of reference books in the reference section on the first floor of Simpson Library. For this class, I particularly recommend these reference books:

Google and Wikipedia

You shouldn't rely on Wikipedia for information that you cite in your project. The same goes for random websites that you find with a Google search. However, this doesn't mean you can't use Wikipedia or Google. You can use them...  as starting points!

Wikipedia is an excellent example of a tertiary source. You should definitely use Wikipedia! Just be sure to use it only for its intended purpose. Like any tertiary source, you should Wikipedia only to get overviews of topics.

When you read a Wikipedia article, I recommend taking notes on what you read. Write down anything that you could type into a search box, such as the names of important people or places or events or artworks. Also, look at the ends of Wikipedia articles to find suggestions for further reading.


Videos of three-dimensional artworks, such as buildings or sculptures, are a great way to see what the artwork looks like from multiple angles. Many videos include narration that provides an overview of the artwork.

Lots of streaming videos are available through Quest, and more are freely available on the internet. To find these videos, see the Images of Artworks page of this guide.