Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

THEA 319: Modern Theatre History

Primary and secondary sources for researching historical theatrical productions

Modern Theatre History

Welcome, Theater 319 students!

This is a guide to the variety of resources which are typically useful in this course.  While the databases are all listed on the BSU Libraries' Databases page, they're scattered around.  Plus the links for Archives on the Primary Sources page are vital.

Reminder: Research using primary sources can take a long time.  Be prepared for that!

Some Definitions

How to define primary and secondary sources?

There are many ways, depending on your subject area.  (Below is quoted from William Daw's World Theatre library guide)

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  • Primary sources may be published or unpublished.  Unpublished sources are unique materials (e.g., family papers) often referred to as archives and manuscripts.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

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.

Having Trouble? Ask a Librarian!

Visit the Ask a Librarian page to find out the many ways you can get help from a librarian.  Chat with us, phone us, email us, text us -- you can even talk to us in person or set up an individual appointment to get the assistance you need!