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Primary sources for the Humanities: Home

This guide is a starting point for finding primary source documents in the Humanities. It is arranged by geographic region.

This guide focuses on primary sources in the Humanities. Primary sources in the Social Sciences and Sciences are defined differently. For more information on this topic, see the Types of Information Sources guide developed by James Cook University.

If you need help, please contact Mike McIntosh, Liaison Librarian at 778.782.5043 or mmcintos@sfu.ca or Ask a librarian.

What is a  primary source

A primary source is a document or other sort of evidence written or created during the time under study, or by one of the persons or organizations directly involved in the event. Primary sources offer an inside view of a particular event.

Types of primary sources

  • Original Documents (excerpts or translations are acceptable): diaries, speeches, letters, minutes, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records.
  • Creative Works: poetry, drama, novels, music, art, films.
  • Relics or Artifacts: jewelry, pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings, tools.

Examples of primary sources

  • Diary of Samuel Pepys  - Social life and customs in England at the end of the 17th century.
  • British North America Act, 1867 (30 & 31 Victoria, c. 3) - Canadian history.
  • The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer - late medieval English culture.