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Primary Sources

Primary sources are available selectively. Consider these factors before you search:

  • Geographical area
  • Time period
  • Language
  • Document type
  • Topic
  • Broad themes

Related Subject Guides

This guide highlights collections available via the University of Alberta. More primary sources are openly available online, or available elsewhere. To find the best sources for your project, talk to a subject librarian!

What is a Primary Source?

Primary sources are original materials that provide first-hand information and description. They are often created during or around the time period under study. In contrast, secondary sources (e.g. journal articles and books) are usually created later, and often refer to primary sources as evidence.

Some Examples of Primary Sources

How do I find Primary Sources?

Primary sources can be found in published materials at the library, or digitized into databases and online collections. Original documents can be found in museums and archives. Primary sources can be individual items, collections brought together by theme, or archival fonds (records created by an individual or institution in the course of daily activities).

In the Library Catalogue

In the Microform

In the University of Alberta Special Collections & Archives

In Other Collections

In addition to primary sources held at the University of Alberta Libraries, the library also subscribes to databases and online exhibitions that feature primary sources.


Many primary sources are only available by searching through specific collections. â€‹Browse for collections by clicking on a geographical region:


Sometimes, it is possible to search multiple collections at once, covering a wide range materials. To search broadly across multiple collections, click on a search platform to see which collections are included:

Choose a Collection