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University of Texas University of Texas Libraries

MUS 381 - Reference and Research Materials in Music

Primary Sources

Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary Sources 

Primary sources are contemporary accounts of an event, written by someone who experienced or witnessed the event in question. These original documents (i.e. they are not about another document or account) are often diaries, letters, memoirs, journals, speeches, manuscripts, interviews and other such unpublished works. They may also include published pieces such as newspaper or magazine articles (as long as they are written soon after the fact and not as historical accounts), photographs, audio or video recordings, research reports in the natural or social sciences, or original literary or theatrical works. 

Secondary Sources

The function of secondary sources is to interpret primary sources, and so can be described as at least one step removed from the event under review. Secondary sources interpret, assign value to, conjecture upon, and draw conclusions about the events reported in primary sources.


Primary Sources in the Library Catalog

Many primary source materials can be found in the library catalog, including newspapers, government documents, personal materials, and images. You can limit your search to specific types of primary source material by doing an advanced search in the catalog.

Example: If you are looking for interviews about Watergate, search watergate in "any field" and interview in "subject"


Find Primary Sources by Type

Examples of Primary and Secondary Sources in Music

Primary resources in music research

  • Manuscript music scores
  • Musical instruments
  • Sheet music
  • Composer's notes, correspondence, or autobiographies
  • Musical performances, recordings, films, and videos of live performaces
  • Sound recordings

Secondary resources in music research

  • Dictionaries
  • Encyclopedias
  • Textbooks
  • Books and articles that interpret, analyze, or review research works


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