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MH211/MH314 - Survey of Western Music I & II: Primary/Secondary Sources

A guide for students in MH211 and MH314 researching music history topics from medieval times through the Classical era and from the Romantic era through the present.

What is a Primary Source?

For historical sources, primary sources are those created at the time of an event, by those who participated in or witnessed the event. They are the original documents of history.

Examples can include:

  • Diaries
  • Letters
  • Speeches
  • Recordings (Audio or Video)
  • Notebooks/Manuscripts
  • Scores
  • Images
  • Interviews
  • Published accounts from the time of an event
  • Artifacts

What is a Secondary Source?

Secondary sources are created after primary sources, and interpret, comment on, analyze, discuss, etc. primary sources.

Examples include:

  • Reference Sources (Encyclopedias/Dictionaries...)
  • Textbooks
  • Scholarly/Academic Articles
  • Magazine/Newspaper Articles
  • Books (Biographies, Music History Books, etc.)



Check out some short videos discussing the difference between primary and secondary sources.

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources from Beam Library (1m14s)

Primary and Secondary Sources from JSTOR (4m22s)

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