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Rhetoric & Composition 2: Writing About Literature: Primary Sources & Scholarly Articles Explained

What are Primary and Secondary Sources?

Primary sources are the "raw" material of research. They allow one to study evidence firsthand without the interpretations or analyses of others. A few examples of primary sources include the following:

  • Autobiographies
  • Birth certificates
  • Court reports
  • Diaries
  • Letters
  • Speeches
  • Personal Narratives

To find Primary Sources in the University Library's online catalog, use  keywords such as "letters," "diaries," "correspondence," "manuscripts," and "narratives" with your topic to find historical documents or first-person accounts.

The course Learning Modules (in Blackboard) also provide selected links to selected primary sources.

Secondary sources are the interpretation of historical events and people that provide the student with the author's analyses and evaluations.  Secondary sources allow the student to understand how others have viewed and interpreted the topic or event. 

What is a Scholarly Article?

A scholarly or peer-reviewed article is one that is reviewed by a panel of experts in the field. The following are a few characteristics of a scholarly article:

  • An abstract, or summary, before the main text of the article
  • Footnotes and/or bibliographies that cite sources
  • Graphs or charts detailing the research process and/or results
  • Publication by a professional or academic organization
  • Discipline-specific language

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