Skip to Main Content

Course & Subject Guides

Scholarly Research in Shakespeare Performance History @ Pitt

For Kathleen George's Performance History of Measure for Measure course 2234 THEA 2202

Three Types of Sources

There are three types of sources:

1) Primary Sources

  • Original materials that provide direct evidence or first-hand testimony concerning a topic or event.
  • Primary sources can be contemporary sources created at the time when the event occurred (e.g., letters and newspaper articles) or later (e.g., memoirs and oral history interviews).
  • Primary sources may be published or unpublished.  Unpublished sources are unique materials (e.g., family papers) often referred to as archives and manuscripts.
  • What constitutes a primary source varies by discipline. How the researcher uses the source generally determines whether it is a primary source or not.

2) Secondary Sources

  • Works that interpret, analyze, and discuss the evidence provided by primary sources (e.g., scholarly books and articles).
  • Secondary sources are generally a second-hand account or observation at least one step removed from the event.
  • Secondary sources, however, can be considered to be primary sources depending on the context of their use. For example, Ken Burns' documentary of the Civil War is a secondary source for Civil War researchers, but a primary source for those studying documentary filmmaking.

3) Tertiary Sources

  • Books or articles that synthesize or distill primary and secondary sources, often in a convenient, easy-to-read form (e.g., dictionaries, encyclopedias, indexes, and textbooks).

Historical Digital Collections @ Pitt

Search the library's many subscription databases to find primary source materials on your topic.

Primary Sources in PittCat

Adding primary source-related keywords to your PittCat search will help you to more easily locate primary source materials. For example, if you are searching for primary sources on the Women's Suffrage Movement, search the phrase "Women's Suffrage" with the keyword "papers" (i.e., "women's suffrage" AND papers). Other keywords that can be used to locate primary sources are:

  • sources
  • archives
  • correspondence
  • interviews
  • notebooks
  • personal narratives
  • speeches
  • writings
  • fiction
  • reports
  • pictorial works
  • songs and music
  • cases
  • case study
  • oral history

Limiting by Resource Type and Date of Publication

You may also refine the results of a topic/subject search by resource type and date of publication using the filters on the left-hand side to customize your search.

To limit a search by Resource Type, click on the "Show more..." link to see a full list of available resource types for your search. Check the boxes of all types appropriate to your need - such as videos, conference proceedings, images, collection(s), scores, audio, maps, newspapers, and other (may include archival material) - then click the "Apply Filters" button.

Screenshot of PittCat Filter "Resource Type" applied to "Women's Suffrage" search.


Limiting sources to a particular date of publication will help you to locate contemporary sources published at the time of an event. For example, if you are examining American Literature during WWII, refine your search results by using the Date filter to retrieve novels published only during the years 1939 to 1945. You may want to further sort the results to display the oldest dates first.

Screenshot of PittCat "Date" Filter (1870-1920) applied to "Women's Suffrage" search.