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Research Guides

CIN201: Film Cultures 1: Art & Industry

A comprehensive guide to for finding the best primary source materials (1895-1968) for your Cinema Studies assignment.

Primary Sources VS Secondary Sources

The goal of this assignment is for you to have the experience of being the investigator and seek connections between primary sources, instead of reading other people's interpretations.  Remember if only use the facts and the content instead of the arguments and analysis within secondary sources. If you aren't sure how to approach that, connect with your TA or the Cinema Studies Librarian to discuss search strategies.  

Search Tips for Secondary Sources

Books, Newer Magazines or Journals, Films can be found in the UofT Cinema Studies Guide. 





(Use carefully or Avoid)

"A primary source is a document that was created at the time of the event or subject you've chosen to study, or by people who were observers of, or participants in that event or topic."
- E.H. Brown - Writing about History, UofT Writing Advice

For example, articles and reviews published at contemporary time to a film’s release are primary sources. 

To find primary sources, remember you need to restrict your search results to materials published close to the time of your film or event. If they are published later, they are secondary sources.  

Secondary Sources are documents and creative works (images, film, audio) that analyze primary source materials and provide context on the circumstances that surround them. 

Look for facts, keywords or citations that you can use to search for primary source materials and avoid the insights made by authors. 

Use secondary sources to find reproductions of primary sources (diaries, letters, photos, business documents) and finding the citation information. or your assignment.

AVOID using the secondary author's analysis or commentary on the topic you are examining.

Focus on facts, reproduced text or images of the primary source materials in these secondary sources. 


Examples (materials from your chosen time period): 

Personal Documents:

Letters, Diaries, Interviews, Speeches

Memoirs and Autobiographies (written with someone else)

  • Use these resources to find primary source content (e.g. diaries, photos, letters, storyboards).
Audiovisual Materials
  • Photographs, artwork, illustrations
  • Motion Picture Films, News Footage
  • Audio Recordings 
Production and Marketing Materials
  • Scripts, Storyboards
  • Press Kits, Film Posters
  • Advertisements, Toys, Lobby Cards
Business Documents
  • Contracts, Annual Reports, Invoices
  • Memos, letters
Professional Association Documents
  • MPAA Production Code Administration Files
  • Audience Research Reports 
Government & Legal Documents
  • Reports, Court Cases
  • Documents in Archival Collections, e.g., J. Edgar Hoover and Radicalism in Hollywood (Media Commons in microfilm or online via Archives Unbound Collections)
Popular Publications from that time period
  • Newspapers, Trade Magazines, and Fan or Popular Magazines (articles, original film reviews, photos, advertisements, etc.) 

Examples of Using Secondary Sources:

Newspapers, Trade Magazines, and Fan or Popular Magazines published later than time period that you are studying 

Books (including Biographies)

  • If you must look at books that have primary source content (e.g. diaries, letters, storyboards), be sure that they are properly cited and unaltered. Contact the librarian to see if the content can be found a different way.
  • Avoid connections or analysis made by the book's author. 
  • Remember CITED your sources.  

Government & Legal Documents or Professional Association

  • AVOID materials published later than time period that you are studying and provide a retrospective on a topic from the past.


Use Scholarly Resources to find Primary Sources

UofT's Cinema Studies Research Guide has search tips to help you search for current Cinema Studies resources through UofT Libraries or the web. Be sure to sign in to LibrarySearch

Remember if you encounter a message asking you to pay for access to an online resource, visit the UofT Libraries Website and search for the resource.

If you can't find it: