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Primary Sources

This research guide will help students find and cite primary source materials, with special attention to resources related to topics frequently covered in ENGL 102 courses.

General Starting Sources

Magazines via Google Books.  In particular, you may be interested in:

  • Billboard Magazine (1942-2010/11)
    • Magazine covering popular culture in relation to the music industry.  Issues of the magazine may contain reviews of music as well as popular opinion concerning musical artists of the time.  This may be a good resource for students interested in researching Vietnam protest music
  • JET Magazine (1951-2008/9)
    • Magazine with the specific audience of African Americans covering topics of political and entertainment news.  This may be a good resource for students researching topics in relation to Civil Rights in the 1960’s.
  • LIFE Magazine (1936-1972)
    • Magazine covering various current events contemporary to the time.  The magazine has a photography focus, and because of this, the resource would be an excellent choice for students wishing to find image based primary sources.
Best Bets
Additional Resources

Collections of items recorded from television, including commercials, old television shows, government proceedings, and more.

Access to thousands of streaming videos, including collections and titles from PBS, BBC, Criterion Collection, Media Education Foundation and more.

A large streaming video and audio collection from Alexander Street Press. Includes documentaries, films, interviews, music, news programs, and performances.

From the most important productions of Shakespeare to rare in-depth footage focusing on the work of Samuel Beckett, Theatre in Video, when complete, will offer more than 500 hours of online streaming video, available electronically for the first time. 

A collection of popular contemporary movies available on campus. 

Contains silent feature films, serials, and shorts from the 1890s to the 1930s that represent the foundation of modern cinematic technique and film theory.

Contain 250 of the most important opera performances, captured on video through staged productions, interviews, and documentaries.


For a complete list of all primary source databases available to you through the library, click HERE.

When searching for primary sources, it's crucial to recognize that the names of things, events, people, and places have evolved over time. For instance, in a project about the history of mental healthcare, contemporary terms like "outpatient centers" or "psychiatric hospitals" may not have been used in the past. It's essential to uncover the terminology used during the specific time period you are examining. Terms that are now considered outdated or offensive, such as "asylum" or "madhouse," might yield more relevant results for your research.

Wikipedia and other online encyclopedias or reference materials may give suggestions about this alternative terminology.

Authoritative citation guide covering MLA, APA, and Chicago Style.  The guide offers a good array of examples for citing materials in a variety of formats.

Specialized guide from the Library of Congress providing in depth examples of citations for the MLA citation format.

General guide created by UT libraries to assist students in finding resources to perfect their citations.

Contains an organized listing of newspaper database within UT library subscriptions.  Contains both historic and contemporary first hand accounts of events.  When selecting a database, try to go by the dates related to the event in question.

Research guides offered for UT's Special Collections.  Offers resources focused primarily on the history of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Appalachia, and its surrounding communities.  The special collections would be an excellent resource for students who want physical access to primary source materials, as the special collections are available for physical viewing on the first floor of Hodges Library.

This guide will help students find primary and secondary sources for English 101, 102, 118, 198, 298 assignments.


If you have questions or comments about this guide, contact Erin Whitaker