This guide to primary sources focusses on collections owned or subscribed to by UBC Library. Freely available resources are also described if they are significant collections or have a Canadian focus.
For more primary sources in specific subject areas, please use the appropriate UBC Library Research Guides.
Related Guides and Websites
- Government Primary Sources - coming soon
- Major Microform Collections at UBC Library
- Newspapers and News Sources - UBC Library guide to newspaper collections at UBC Library, full-text online newspapers, both current and historical, from around the world.
- UBC Rare Books and Special Collections - coming soon
- UBC University Archives
University publications including UBC Reports, The Ubyssey, Alumni Chronicle, Trek Magazine, UBC Calendars, UBC Yearbooks.
UBC historical documents including UBC Presidents' Annual Reports, Senate Minutes, early documentation on Point Grey campus.
What are Primary Sources?
Primary Sources are the direct evidence or first hand accounts of events without secondary analysis or interpretation. A primary source is a work that was written or created at a time that is contemporary or nearly contemporary with the period or subject being studied.
The definition of a primary source varies depending upon the academic discipline and the context in which it is used.
In the humanities, a primary source could be defined as something that was created either during the time period being studied or afterward by individuals reflecting on their involvement in the events of that time.
In the social sciences, the definition of a primary source would be expanded to include numerical data that has been gathered to analyze relationships between people, events, and their environment.
Secondary Sources analyze or interpret an historical event or artistic work. Secondary sources often base their theories and arguments on the direct evidence found in primary sources. A secondary work for a subject is one that discusses the subject but is written after the time contemporary with it.
For more information on definitions of primary and secondary sources, visit Library and Archives Canada website on the topic.
Formats of Primary Sources
- Personal records or documents: diaries, journals, letters, manuscripts, speeches, and papers
- Autobiographies and memoirs
- Government documents and records
- Published materials: books, magazine and journal articles, reports, newspaper articles written at the time
- Visual Materials: photographs, paintings, sculptures, films, video recordings
- Artifacts: physical objects from that time, such as clothes, furniture, toys, and buildings
Finding Primary Sources in the Library Catalogue
Try a keyword search in the library catalogue combining your subject with words that identify a particular genre:
- personal narratives