Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

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.

What are Primary 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.  If you need help or want to just brainstorm, definitely reach out to the librarian. 



"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.  

Documents and creative works (images, film, audio) that analyse 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.





Examples (materials from your chosen time period): 

Personal 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).

Photographs, Motion Picture Films, News Footage, Audio Recordings 

Press Kits, Film Posters, Marketing Materials: Advertisements, Toys, Scripts, Storyboards, etc. 

Business Documents: contracts, memos, letters, invoices, etc.

Professional Association Documents (MPAA Production Code Administration Files, Audience Research Reports, etc.) 

Government & Legal Documents including Reports, Court Cases, documents in Archival Collections like J. Edgar Hoover and Radicalism in Hollywood at Media Commons in microfilm or online (see Online Primary Sources and scroll to #9. Archives Unbound Collections)

Newspapers, Trade Magazines, and Fan or Popular Magazines (articles, original film reviews, photos, advertisements, etc.) 



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. Those MUST BE CITED. 

Government & Legal Documents or Professional Association Publications published later than time period that you are studying and provide a retrospective on a topic from the past.