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Music: Primary and Secondary Sources

This is a guide to Music Resources to assist students looking for information about Music.

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What is the difference between primary and secondary sources?

Primary sources are records or documents created at the time historical events occurred. Primary sources could also be made after historical events have taken place by someone who participated in those events (for example, memoirs or oral histories). Some of the most common types of primary sources are letters, manuscripts, diaries, newspapers, statistics, interviews, memoirs, oral histories, speeches, objects, or artifacts.

Secondary sources interpret or analyze an historical event. Most secondary sources are books with footnotes or endnotes, journal and magazine articles that analyze or interpret past events, biographies, book reviews, literary criticism, or recreations of artwork or artifacts.

Need more explanation? Scroll down and take a look at some of the websites listed below. They contain more information about the difference between primary and secondary sources, as well as short interactive quizzes to help you test your knowledge.

More help for understanding primary and secondary sources

Need more info on the difference between primary and secondary sources? These websites have guides and quizzes to help.

Primary Sources in Books

To look for books containing primary sources in the SanJac library, search the library catalog

A good way to search for library books that contain primary sources is to include keywords like letters, diary, papers,or journal in your search:

San Jacinto College Library Catalog

Find books and more!

For more tips, take a look at the guide to searching the library catalog or check out our YouTube Channel. You can always contact a librarian for more information, too.

Primary Sources on the Web

These websites are great resources for finding primary sources online. Mouse over a title for more detail:

The Internet is a fantastic resource for finding primary sources, but you have to be careful to make sure the site you use is reliable. Here are some ways you can tell:

  • Discover who publishes the website, and if it is a reputable association or individual. You can usually tell by reading an "About Us" or "Our Mission" link. Find out if the website is published for educational, non-profit, or scholarly purposes, or if it is published for commercial reasons. 
  • Make sure to look at the latest copyright date or last update to the website - you can usually find this if you scroll all the way to bottom of a web page. If a lot of links are broken, and the content has not been updated in several years, you may want to think twice about using it as a source.
  • Pay very careful attention to any biases or political affiliations. You want to make sure the information you use is from an objective source, or one where you can identify the particular viewpoint.

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