The Interplay of Primary and Secondary Sources

  • If you're searching for primary sources on a topic, one good place to start is a secondary source that cites original texts, manuscripts, and archives.
  • Conversely, published editions of primary sources will often cite secondary sources for added context, commentary, and history.
  • In particular, critical editions of literary works (primary sources) often have extensive commentary and analysis (i.e., secondary material).

A good starting point for finding both primary and secondary sources is a reference work or bibliography. You can often find reference works in HOLLIS by combining your subject with keywords like Encyclopedia, Guide, Dictionary, Handbook, Companion, or Introduction.

Oxford Bibliographies Online is a rich collection of lists of recommended secondary and primary sources, compiled by experts. Here are a few of the entries related to this course:

See the Primary Sources pages on this guide for more suggestions.