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Primary Sources



What is a Primary Source?

Primary sources are original materials that provide first-hand information and description on a particular topic or event. 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 University of Alberta Special Collections & Archives


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

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