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Library Research Guides

COMM 271 Revolutions in Communication: Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Resources for communications students at UM, including how to find articles, how to find current and historical news sources, suggested online historical collections, how to access on-campus archives, and how use MLA style.

Resources

The key to determining whether a source is primary or secondary is the amount of time between the events recorded in the document and the time the document was created. Primary sources are generally created at the same time or shortly after an event occurs; secondary sources are created later.

Examples of Primary Sources by Discipline

Discipline/Subject Primary Sources
English, History, Literature, Social Sciences, Psychology, Liberal Arts autobigraphies, diaries, legal and government documents, radio and television broadcasts, manuscripts, photographs, ship's logs, letters, meeting minutes, newspaper and magazine articles of the time
Science, Mathematics
research notes, journal articles on new advances

Primary Sources in Mirlyn (library catalog)

Mirlyn

The UM Library catalog – search here for books, films, music, manuscripts, diaries, musical scores, journal titles, autobiographies, etc.  The Askwith Media Library (videos and DVDs) collections are included within Mirlyn.

When searching Mirlyn for primary sources, some suggested keywords to add to your search:

  • "personal narratives"
  • correspondence, letter or letters
  • diary or diaries
  • manuscript
  • "musical score"
  • biography or autobiography
  • memoirs

Also remember newspapers in print and on microfilm, in addition to electronically; print and microfilm allows you to look at advertisements of the time. For more Mirlyn search tips, see "Search Tips" tab.