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Library Research Guides

Comm 122: Media Analysis

Primary sources related to cultural studies, communications and the media

Think about the various kinds of texts that exist:  advertisements, television shows, video games, Congressional hearings, newspapers, social media posts, films, etc. These can all be primary sources in relation to your topic.

Television, Film, Video Games

What Is a Primary Source?

A primary source is generally:

  • a document that was created in the time period that you are studying, or by a person who lived during that time period and wrote about it later
  • firsthand knowledge about the event, time period, or person that you are researching.

A secondary source, on the other hand:

  • makes use of primary sources in the explanation or exploration of a prior time period
  • is distanced from this time period and uses primary sources as evidence to back up assertions.
Example: if you are researching the films of Steven Spielberg, a book about his body of work would be a secondary source, while his movies themselves would be primary sources. An interview with Spielberg would also be considered a primary source.

Context Matters

Whether a source is primary or secondary depends on the context of your research question. Sometimes what we might think of as a secondary source becomes a primary source, depending on how you are using it.

Example: a 19th century biography of a 17th century historical figure is a secondary source if you want to learn more about that person, but it is a primary source if you are looking for 19th century opinions on the figure.
Example: the Democratic party website, campaign ads, or twitter feed is a secondary (and politically biased) source if you want to learn about current government happenings, but it is a primary source for looking at how this particular political party expresses itself and its views.

Trade Publications

News Sources - including television news shows

Magazine Collections

A small selection of our online magazines - for a particular publication, search in Mirlyn