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Finding Primary Sources: Where to Find Them

A guide created to assist students to find and evaluate primary sources.

Primary Sources and Where to Find Them

Newspapers are great primary sources as they provide information about a historical event and often include information on public opinion. Newspapers are also great for advertisements, political cartoons, and opinion pieces. Keep in mind the bias of the newspaper and reporter and make sure that the newspaper article/item that you choose is not too far removed from the event it describes.

Newspapers: Print and Mircoform

This is by no means a comprehensive list of UNBC Library's newspaper collections. The following are some of our largest and oldest newspaper collections:

Digitized Newspapers

Use the library catalogue and search by:

  • The 'topic' and interview 
  • The individual's name and interview
  • Topic and oral history

Question: I am looking for an interview with a Canadian author, specifically Margaret Atwood. Does this exist and where would I find it?

Answer: Go to the library catalogue and perform a keyword search by typing in "Interview and Atwood".


Search the Northern BC Archives database for "interview" to find unpublished oral history interviews.

Use the library catalogue and search by:

  • The individual's name as author

Search by the headings:

  • Correspondence (for letters)
  • Diaries
  • Personal Narratives

Question: I am looking for primary sources relating to Leon Trotsky. Where do I look?

Answer: Go to the library catalogue and perform a keyword search typing in "Diary and Trotsky"

Sourcebooks are great resources as they are compellations of primary sources on one general topic such as: 

Notice that sourcebooks can be described in multiple ways. Some titles will specifically identify themselves as a sourcebook, others simply state that they are a collection of texts, sources, or documents, while some do not give any hint of their contents. Due to this inconsistency sourcebooks can be difficult to find in the library catalogue.

Using the example of Renaissance woman: a sourcebook: constructions of femininity in England edited by Kate Aughterson, notice that all the subject headings for this book end in "Sources."

Find sourcebooks by doing an Advanced Search and search for Sources under Subject Terms. Search for your relevant keywords in other fields and refine your search to the library catalogue. You could also search for History under Subject Terms as most of the subject headings for this book include History. Other keywords could include the region, era, or topic to refine your search, for example: (SubjectTerms:(sources AND history AND women AND medieval AND Europe)).


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