MUS 351/352: Music from Antiquity through the Baroque & Classical to the Present

Primary & Secondary Sources

Primary sources include original content, first-hand accounts, raw data, documents or objects created at the time of study. Primary sources vary dependent upon the focus of study.

For example, primary sources for a historian may include diaries, letters, newspaper articles written at the time of an event; for a literary scholar, she may study a poem, a short story, or novel; for a musicologist, she may study notes written by the composer; for a biologist, she will study the findings of an original research project.

Other examples in music include: scores in general, especially manuscripts/facsimiles of scores or early printed editions of scores; audio or video recording; personal writings, such as letters, journals or autobiography;

Secondary sources interpret or analyze a primary source. A secondary source provides commentary and discussion of a primary source.

For example, a magazine article that discusses a research study that analyzed data collected from a survey about literacy in rural school districts. Also, a biography, a textbook, a review article, or critical essay. 

The following video was produced for University of West Florida Library; it contains useful information about primary and secondary sources:  

Types of Sources

Approaching the issue from multiple perspectives will add complexity to your position, which will lead to a stronger paper. Typically, a well-researched paper will not only include a diverse set of perspectives, but it will include references to a variety of sources that support your ideas. For college level research papers sources tend to use: academic, scholarly or peer-reviewed articles.  However your sources will depend on the type of paper and your topic.

WATCH: Scholarly, Trade, and Popular Articles

READ: Criteria for Identifying Types of Articles

Article databases index popular, professional/trade, and scholarly journals (or peer reviewed). Peer reviewed or refereed articles refers to the process in which articles are reviewed by professionals in a field of study before being published. A journal's website should explain the publishing process and if it is peer reviewed or not. Many times, professors use the term peer reviewed and scholarly articles synonymously.


AUTHOR Researcher, scholar, or specialist with expertise in the subject; author's credentials are provided Journalist or staff writer; paid to write articles; may or may not be an expert in the subject Usually practitioners and professionals in the field (has subject expertise)
AUDIENCE Experts, scholars, researchers, professors and students in the field General public       Professionals in the field; may appeal to the general public
PURPOSE In-depth report of original research/findings written by the researcher; communicate scholarship Current events and general interest stories; may report about other's research; to entertain and inform Report current news, trends, and products about a specific industry; share practical information for professionals in the field
TONE Scholarly or technical jargon or terminology Accessible and readily understood by a larger audience. Professional jargon or terminology
REFERENCES Sources are cited in a bibliography, references, endnotes, or footnotes Rare Few, if any, sources cited
REVIEW Refereed or reviewed by scholars in the field Editor Editor
LENGTH Usually 5+ pages; often includes an abstract, goals and objectives, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion Usually short, a few pages Usually short, a few pages
ADVERTISING Little to none; occasional ads for professional organizations or publications Numerous ads for a variety of products and services Many ads for products, services, and organizations related to the profession or trade
FREQUENCY Issues published quarterly, semi-annually, or annually Issues published weekly or monthly Issues published weekly or monthly
EXAMPLES Journal of Robotics Journal of Romance Studies Journal of Roman Studies Business Week Rolling Stone Time American Libraries Chronicle of Higher Education Publishers' Weekly
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION A book review or editorial published in a scholarly journal does not fit the criteria for a scholarly article.