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Locating Primary Sources

Tue. Mar. 10, 2015

It’s not uncommon for your instructors to ask you to use primary sources in your research paper. But what are primary sources and where can you find them?

The Princeton University Libraries website provides a good definition of a primary source.

“A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event.” 

Historical research makes heavy use of primary sources, and you can understand why considering they allow us to, in a sense, travel back to another time period. But primary sources can also be useful to any field of research that explores something in a context that we can’t observe or experience directly.

This includes a wide variety of source types, including texts like diaries, memoirs, letters, speech transcripts, interview transcripts, and field notes. It can also include non-textual formats like photographs, films, artworks, artefacts, clothing, and more.

Finding Primary Sources

The following video demonstrates some techniques for finding primary sources in the library collection.

The University of Winnipeg Archives  has a growing collection of documents from people and groups relevant to the university and the surrounding community. Some of these collections have been digitized and made available online. Most of the documents are still only available in the print. In addition to our archives, you may find some tremendously useful documents in other archives nearby as well as digital collections available online. See the links below for more information.

Useful Links