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ENG R398 Culture Identity and Rhetoric of Place

Primary Sources

primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event. Some types of primary sources include:

  • ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS (excerpts or translations acceptable): Diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records, building plans
  • CREATIVE WORKS: Poetry, drama, novels, music, art
  • RELICS OR ARTIFACTS: Pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings

Examples of primary sources include:

  • Diary of Anne Frank - Experiences of a Jewish family during WWII
  • The Constitution of Canada - Canadian History
  • A journal article reporting NEW research or findings
  • Building plans for the construction of the Sears Tower
  • Plato’s Republic - Women in Ancient Greece

secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may have pictures, quotes or graphics of primary sources in them. Some types of secondary sources include:

  • PUBLICATIONS: Textbooks, magazine articles, histories, criticisms, commentaries, encyclopedias

Examples of secondary sources include:

  • A journal/magazine article which interprets or reviews previous findings
  • A history textbook
  • A book about the Taj Mahal

Prepared by Carey Beam & Cynthia Smith, with special thanks to Lou Malcomb and Kristina Keogh

1. Choose a relevant database or digital collection to search. 

2. Enter relevant keywords.

3. If possible, limit search by publication date and format (e.g., book reviews, photographs).
(Many databases have this option.)

4. Consult a librarian for recommended databases and resources.

Web Resources: