Primary sources are the raw materials of scholarship - original sources of information that have not yet been filtered through analysis, examination or interpretation. Primary sources are often contemporary to the events and individuals being researched. Typically, when we speak of primary sources in literature we mean either the literary work under study (James Joyce's Ulysses) or personal information produced by the author himself (Joyce's letters, diaries, manuscripts, and archival papers).
Limited edition of James Joyce's Ulysses illustrated by Henri Matisse. Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, Ireland. Photo Credit: Katy Curtis
Scholarly and critical editions will typically present and discuss variant versions of a text; provide historical, cultural and linguistic context; and delineate the history of scholarly approaches to that text. Most scholarly editions will have an editor (or editors) and will be published by a university press. These editions are especially useful for approaching works with complicated textual histories (like Ulysses).
More works from Joyce:
To find collections of primary sources, try searching Primo by subject. A scholar or group of scholars may have spent years or even decades collecting and faithfully transcribing primary sources, and then preparing careful annotations and writing introductory essays to the collection. If you can find scholarly editions, use them!