Skip to main content
University of Texas University of Texas Libraries

E 371C: Early Celebrity, Janine Barchas

About Primary & Reference Sources

What is a Primary Source?

Primary sources are produced by participants or direct observers of an issue, event or time period. These sources may be recorded during the event or later on, by a participant reflecting upon the event. In some cases, it will be difficult to obtain the original source, so you may have to rely on copies (photocopies, microfilm, digital copies). Copies or transcriptions of a primary source still count as a primary source.  

Some examples of primary sources include:

  • Newspapers
  • Speeches
  • Government documents
  • Legal documents
  • Public opinion polls
  • Personal materials, including letters, diaries, interviews, memoirs, autobiographies, and oral histories
  • Images
  • Works of art (novels, plays, paintings, etc.)

Note that in this course, original publications of novels and editions published in the 18th century are considered primary sources. 

About Reference Sources

Reference sources provide background information and a general overview of a research topic, including definitions of important terms and concepts, relevant names of people or places, and dates of specific events. Reference sources in library databases are vetted, edited collections, curated and written by scholars. They include:

  • Encyclopedias
  • Dictionaries
  • Biographies
  • Bibliographies and further reading lists

Think of these resources as "scholarly Wikipedia"!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.