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Biographies: Primary & Secondary Sources

Primary and Secondary Sources

Sources for Biographical Information include:

    Primary Sources: An information source is considered primary if it is a work written, created, or generated by the person whose life is the subject of the search. Primary sources include:

    • Letters, notes, and other messages written by or to the person during his/her lifetime
    • Memoranda, directives, and reports written by the person, usually in a professional or occupational capacity
    • Diaries, journals, memoirs, commonplace books, and other autobiographical materials written by the person
    • Photographs or moving pictures taken of the person during his or her lifetime
    • Creative works written, composed, or performed by the person during his or her lifetime
    • Interviews and oral histories recorded during the person's lifetime
    • Inscriptions, notes, and marginalia written in books and on other documents
    • Legal and administrative records pertaining to the person's life
    • Newspaper reports of events that occurred in the person's life and during the time in which he or she lived
    • Diaries and memoirs written by those who knew the person

    Secondary Sources:An information source is considered secondary if it is a work written by others about the person's life and times or about his/her works. Secondary sources include:

    • Obituaries written and published at the time of death
    • Essays published in biographical and general reference works
    • Articles about the person's life published in periodicals (newspapers, magazines, and journals)
    • Documentary films and videorecordings about the person's life
    • Book-length biographies and histories
    • Reviews and criticism of the person's creative works
    • Bibliographies of sources about the person's life and works

                                                                                                                           Western Connecticut State University 2005