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Library Research Guides

Comm 159 Global Media Microclimates

Suggested resources to use for the final project assignments for Derek Vaillant's Comm 159: Global Media Microclimates

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

Television, film, video games

News Sources - including television and international news

Magazine archives

Magazines in print and microfilm - search Mirlyn for particular titles

International newspaper archives

Primary sources related to global communications and media

Think about the various kinds of topics that exist within the realm of global media. Then consider what constitutes a primary source or a "text" related to that topic:  a twitter feed, advertisements, a screenplay, movie or film reviews, television shows, video games, Congressional hearings, a campaign website, newspapers, films, etc. These can all be primary sources in relation to your topic.