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Module 1: What are primary sources?

Examples of primary sources:
Mass media

The products of the mass media can be primary source documents if they were produced at the time of the events or phenomena in question. Examples are: newspaper and magazine articles, published photographs, recordings of television and radio broadcasts, sheet music and music recorded for mass distribution, advertisements, books, and magazines.

As we will discuss in Module 3, with any type of primary source, it is important to consider by whom, how and for what purpose it was produced. This is never more crucial than with mass media products.

Depending upon the particular mass media product, there are a number of levels at which people or institutions participated in its production and distribution. While a mass-produced source like a ‘zine or a personal blog may have very little or no mediation between the author and the reader, something like a magazine article has quite a bit: editor, copy editor, publisher, advertisers, legal restrictions, etc.


p. 8/15

U of I Supply Store ad.

When using ads as primary sources, remember they were created to promote a product or service, not to reflect reality. (Click to enlarge image).

Illio, Vol. 14 (1908), p. 520


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