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Film and Television 6A: History of the American Motion Picture

Your guide to American film history research at UCLA: Find articles, books, reference sources, and more.

What is a Secondary Source?

Secondary sources address or analyze events, people, works, or topics after the fact, unlike primary sources which provide firsthand accounts. 

Examples include:

Secondary sources allow you to broaden your research by providing background information, analyses, and unique perspectives one or more steps removed from an original event or work. Use their bibliographies to find additional secondary, as well as primary, sources.

What Are Primary Sources?

A primary source is a document that was created during the time period being studied. This includes newspaper and magazine articles, original film reviews, pamphlets, interviews, government publications, manuscripts, diaries, and other sources that speak to the context of the time period. Primary sources provide firsthand evidence of historical events recorded by those who lived it, and as such usually need to be contextualized with more recent secondary sources like histories of the time period and academic film criticism in journals.

You can usually find clues to specific primary sources by looking through secondary materials like books and scholarly articles written in the present day. These often include bibliographies of the primary works used as references, and can give you ideas about other ways to search for your topic. Some more recent books also include reprints of primary sources.

Find primary sources on this guide via:

You may also want to take a look at digitized primary sources from the Motion Picture Academy's Margaret Herrick Library, which include materials from the Academy Awards, Mary Pickford, and Production Code Administration Records: