What are Primary Sources?
For the study of music history, primary sources are “first hand” accounts, which are generally produced by the individual being studied or by someone who knew the person. These sources include interviews, letters, diaries, manuscripts, speeches, autobiographies, and musical scores. Maps, photographs and advertisements can also be primary sources as can statistical data, some audio/video materials, e-mails and artifacts.Sources may be published or unpublished. Speeches, interviews, and oral histories may be printed transcripts or audio recordings.
Sample Primary Sources
Periodical publications such as magazines, newspapers and journals vary in quality and depth of coverage. In your Psychology classes, your instructor will usually want you to select articles from scholarly journals (sometimes called "refereed" or "peer-reviewed" journals). This video offers some tips on how to tell a scholarly journal from a popular periodical. For more detail, try our guide to "Scholarly vs. Popular Works."
Periodical publications such as magazines, newspapers and journals vary in quality and depth of coverage. Instructors will frequently want you to select articles from scholarly journals (sometimes called "refereed" or "peer-reviewed" journals, though the terms don't mean exactly the same thing).
Click the image below to watch a short (3min) video on how to tell the difference between scholarly articles and popular magazine articles.
For more detail, try our guide:
Books: Books are published on almost any subject imaginable. A book may give a broad overview of a subject or a very detailed explanation of a narrow aspect of a topic. Like the journals and magazines described below, books vary in their level of scholarliness, some intended for a general audience and others for specialists. Because of the lengthy publication process, books do not contain the most up-to-date information. Reference Books are special types of books which include dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, atlases, and guides. The information given on a topic is concise and generally ranges from a single sentence to several pages. For hundreds of years, “book” meant ink printed on paper and bound together. Today, however, there are many ebooks (electronic or online books) available for reading on a computer or other device.
Academic Journals: Academic journals are also called scholarly or peer-reviewed journals. The purpose of the journal is to further knowledge in the discipline by reporting the results of research, describing methodology, or discussing theory. The articles are written for professionals by researchers in the field and have been peer reviewed, or read and approved, by experts in the field. The language is technical and uses the jargon or terminology of the discipline. Note that not everything published in an academic journal is a scholarly article. Examples of other types of information are letters to the editor, book reviews, and editorials. Journal articles can be found in print, and/or online.
Trade Journals: Trade journals are written for members of a specific industry or profession and use the specialized terminology or jargon of that field. The purpose of the journal is to inform readers of news, developments, techniques, job openings or other professional topics. Articles in these journals are generally relatively up-to-date and can be found in print and/or online.
Magazines: Magazine articles are written for the general public and are usually written by journalists rather than researchers or specialists.
Newspapers: Newspapers contain more up-to-date information than any other traditional print resource. They are generally published daily or weekly. Newspaper articles are written by journalists and provide factual stories about current events as well as opinions about the news in editorials and op-ed articles. Today most newspapers are published electronically and some are also published in print.
Audio/Visual Materials: AV materials include traditional formats such as CDs and DVDs as well as downloadable or streaming audio or video content.
Internet Sites: The Internet contains an overwhelming amount of information – some good, some not-so-good, and some downright bad. The information may be as current as today or twenty years old. Use websites with caution. Wikipedia deserves a special mention. It serves much the same purpose as a traditional print encyclopedia, to provide a quick overview of a topic, but with a major difference. The publishers of traditional encyclopedias select experts to write articles to assure accurate information. Wikipedia articles can be written, and edited, by anyone so the quality of articles varies considerably. If you know little or nothing about a subject, Wikipedia can be a useful place to begin research, but it should never be the end point.