The definition of a primary source depends upon the discipline and on how one is using the source.
Usually, a primary source is a direct, first-hand account of an event. It is usually something that was created at the time of an event, or shortly thereafter. Examples include:
In contrast, a secondary source would be something that interprets, analyses, or remarks upon a primary source. Examples include:
UBC's Library, Archives, and Rare Books & Special Collections (RBSC) are each separate institutions. RBSC Archives holds archival materials collected by UBC, while the UBC Archives holds material created by UBC departments and professors. You will have to search each institution separately to find all the primary source materials held at UBC.
In the UBC Library Catalogue, try combining your topic keywords with one of these terms.
For Example: "Residential schools" AND Autobiograph?
Search Tip: Use quotation marks to search for a phrase (e.g. "First Nations"). Use a question mark to truncate a term to search for words with the same stem (e.g. Biograph? retrieves Biography, Biographies, Biographical, etc.).
UBC Rare Books & Special Collections (RBSC)
RBSC has compiled a list of their materials related to Indigenous peoples: Indigenous Peoples Histories and Archives. This is an ongoing project and new materials will be added frequently. This list should be used in combination with the RBSC database for access to all relevant archival material. When searching the Rare Books & Special Collections database please note that the RBSC search does not use phrase (e.g. "residential school") or truncated (e.g. residential school?) searching. Try a simple keyword search (e.g. Residential school).
In the UBC Library Catalogue, use the terms "oral narratives" or "oral history" with your search (e.g.: "tlingit oral history").
The following are examples of online oral history projects – you will find many more online or in the UBC Catalogue.
The official MLA and APA citation style guides do not have guidelines for citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers.
NorQuest College has developed the following templates for citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers (CC BY-NC 4.0) in the spirit of wahkôhtowin and reconciliation, and we thank them for sharing their template.
For information on the development of these templates and how to use them in practice, please see:
Lorisia MacLeod. "More Than Personal Communication: Templates for Citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers." KULA: Knowledge Creation, Dissemination, and Preservation Studies 5, no. 1 (2021). https://doi.org/10.18357/kula.135
Unlike other personal communications, Elders and Knowledge Keepers should be cited in-text and in the References list.
The in-text citation should follow APA guidelines for formatting in-text citations for paraphrasing and direct quotes. Include the Elder or Knowledge Keeper's last name and the year of communication. For example:
Delores Cardinal described the nature of the... (2004).
The nature of the place was... (Cardinal, 2004).
Corresponding References list entry format:
Last name, First initial., Nation/Community. Treaty Territory if applicable. Where they live if applicable. Topic/subject of communication if applicable. personal communication. Month Date, Year.
For example: Cardinal, D., Goodfish Lake Cree Nation. Treaty 6. Lives in Edmonton. Oral teaching. personal communication. April 4, 2004.
Unlike most other personal communications, Elders and Knowledge Keepers should be cited in-text and in the Works Cited list.
The in-text citation should follow MLA guidelines for formatting in-text citations for paraphrasing and direct quotes. Include the Elder or Knowledge Keeper's last name. For example:
Delores Cardinal described the nature of the...
The nature of the place was... (Cardinal).
Corresponding Works Cited list entry:
Last name, First name., Nation/Community. Treaty Territory if applicable. City/Community they live in if applicable. Topic/subject of communication if applicable. Date Month Year.
For Example: Cardinal, Delores., Goodfish Lake Cree Nation. Treaty 6. Lives in Edmonton. Oral teaching. 4 April 2004.
Note: If you would like to approach an Elder or Knowledge Keeper for teachings, remember to follow protocol or if you are unsure what their protocol is, please ask them ahead of time.
Chicago Manual of Style
Work is underway to develop guidelines for citing Elders and Knowledge Keepers with Chicago Manual of Style. Please check back for updates.