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Primary Sources

This guide to primary sources focuses 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.

Definitions

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 can change depending upon the academic discipline and the context in which it is used - Humanities, Social Sciences and Sciences have unique types of materials which qualify as primary sources.

What are Secondary Sources?

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.

 

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