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Literary Studies Research Guide

Learn about resources for literary studies research, and how to find them

What are primary and secondary sources?

Stack of lettersPrimary sources in literary studies are original works that typically were created contemporaneously with the event, object, or time period being studied. Examples include:

  • original works of literature,
  • newspapers,
  • letters, and
  • diaries.

Primary sources can provide first-hand information about the object or event being studied, and can help you interpret a work in new ways. For example, scholars may look to personal correspondence (such as letters) or diaries to explore questions about why an artist made decisions about the creation of a particular work of art or literature. Or, scholars may look to historical newspapers to think about how public events may have influenced an artist or shaped the creation of a particular work or even an artist's entire body of work. 

Primary sources are often contrasted with secondary sources, which analyze, evaluate, or interpret primary sources. Examples include critical works like scholarly journal articles and books. 

Learn more by watching the short video below. 

Find Primary Sources

Many primary sources can be found by searching the library's catalog, and databases with original works of literature are included on the library's website. Other resources to start your search for primary sources are suggested below.