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English Language and Literature: Primary Source Documents

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Information on primary source documents

The phrase "primary source" means different things to different people in different disciplines. For example, in English a primary source could be any text you're reading (novel, poem, short story, etc.) and the secondary source could be anything written about that text (a book or article of literary criticism, a book review, etc.).

Sometimes a primary source document may be a manuscript or someone's letters that are kept in an archive.

You may have an assignment for which you are required to find primary source documents or cultural documents on a topic related to a text. In that case, your professor may be asking you to find magazine or newspaper articles or other documents from the time period your text was written or the time period of your text's setting. Some databases, including Historical New York Times and The Times Digital Archive, contain scans of original newspaper articles dating back to the mid 1800s or late 1700s. EEBO contains scans of texts dating back to the late 1400s. If you need historic journal articles, JSTOR includes the full text to some journals dating back to the 1800s. Some databases, such as the Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals, contain only the citations and not the full text for magazines dating back to the mid 1800s.

If you use an index that only provides citations and not full text, use the library's catalog to see what's available. Depending on how old the citations are, the resource may be on microform, microfiche, or microfilm. The library has readers for those materials in the Media area on the 2nd floor. The people who work in Media can help you set up the readers and print or save to a Word document.

Digitized texts

Popular periodicals on microfilm

The following are some popular periodicals the library has in Dunbar Microform Journals in the Media area on the 2nd floor. For many of these titles you can find full text for newer issues in a database. For some titles, older issues or gaps in microfilm holdings may be in print format at the depository. Check the catalog record for exact holdings.

Periodicals indexed in Wellesley on Microfilm

Web Resources

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