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Waidner-Spahr Library

English: Primary Sources

Here you will find materials that will help you do research for literature projects.

Primary Source Timeline

See our Primary Source Timeline to browse a selection of primary source databases organized by coverage dates and locations.

Library Catalog

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Primary Sources

In literature, a “primary source” or, more specifically a “primary text,” generally means the literary work that is being read/studied/analyzed. Whenever possible, primary sources other than the author's works of literature should be consulted. An author's thoughts about his or her own work, or the thoughts of the author's contemporaries, can provide invaluable insight about the works of literature you are studying. 

Examples of primary sources are:

  • personal and professional correspondence
  • professional papers
  • diaries and memoirs
  • manuscripts
  • political documents
  • photographs and other images
  • works of art and literature
  • artifacts
  • speeches
  • autobiographies
  • interviews and oral histories
  • newspapers and magazine articles when written at the time of an event

Detailed information about how to locate primary sources can be found on our Finding Primary Sources page.

Examples of primary source databases that are useful for literary studies are listed below.