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Canadian primary sources: Primary sources
general info

Find digital and print sources via the UW Library.

What are primary sources?

... First hand observations of a time, person or event, or material culture associated with a time, person or event.

Some types

newspaper and magazine articles .. diaries .. letters .. government reports .. minutes .. advertisements .. photographs .. military,  church,  synagogue records .. shopping lists .. Twitter tweets .. YouTube videos and comments .. Facebook posts

Here's an example

This toothpaste ad appeared in Collier's magazine in 1943. "How to catch a husband" by Bob Hope. Step 1: "Of course, you know what a husband is! That's a bank account with pants and an empty stomach ..." 

Pespodent toothpaste ad from 1943: How to catch a husband by comedian Bob Hope.

From: John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History



Analyze this

Primary sources are essential to scholars because of the “in-the-moment” information they provide. When examining a primary source, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is the author/creator and what was their relationship to the event or issue?
  • Why would the creator have produced the source in this way?
  • Was the source made for personal use only, so intended to be private?  Such as a diary. Or was it created for others to see? Such as a newspaper article, parliamentary debates, a Tweet.
  • Can you detect certain biases or interests that might have influenced how the source was designed?
  • Can the information conveyed in source be corroborated by other documents created for the same event or in the same period? 


Find primary sources on all manner of topics via the library catalogue

This quick search targets records describing primary documents. Give it a try.

  1. Run the pre-configured library catalogue search. THEN ...
  2. In the 2nd blank box add your own keyword(s) relating to your topic. Separate keywords with AND to ensure all terms appear in the records you retrieve.

Here's an example using poverty AND laws 

Primo search for primary sources

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Before you go check the pre-visit advice, e.g.,