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English: finding library resources for assignments

Primary sources are original sources of information that have not yet been filtered through analysis, examination or interpretation.  

A general definition of a primary source is first-hand evidence of an event or experience. This evidence can be in the form of the written word, images, artefacts, film or sound recordings, and will have been created at some point during the lifetime of the person involved.

Primary sources will vary depending upon what is being studied. 


In the literature field, a primary source can mean the actual original literary work, such as the play, poem, novel, short story, and so on.

Where to look for Primary Sources

As a University of Exeter student you have access to a wide range of online primary sources. You can find out more on the Primary Sources libguide.

A secondary source is not an original source, but is typically material written about a primary source. 

In the literature field, this can encompass a wide variety of materials; including:

  • an article in a scholarly journal

  • biographies

  • critical editions of literary works with introduction, notes, bibliographies etc.

  • a book of critical essays

  • a research monograph

  • a specialist encyclopedia, dictionary or other reference work

Where to look for secondary sources

See the Resources for this module section on this guide for guidance on how to search the research databases for secondary sources.

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