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Research Guides

CIN380: Mobility and Migration in Moving Image Media

Primary Sources: Intro & Overview

What is a Primary Source?

In the humanities, a primary source is a document that was created during the time period being studied. This includes newspaper and magazine articles, original film reviews, pamphlets, interviews, government publications, manuscripts, diaries, newsreels, and other sources that speak to the context of the time period.

Primary sources provide firsthand evidence of historical events recorded by those who lived it, and as such usually need to be contextualized with more modern secondary sources like histories of the time period and academic film writing. You can usually find clues to specific primary sources by looking through secondary materials like books and scholarly articles written in the present day. These often include bibliographies of the primary works used as references, and can give you ideas about other ways to search for your topic. Some more recent books also include reprints of primary sources

Remember that articles released contemporary to a film’s release are primary sources as are reviews that are contemporary to the film you are discussing. Pressbooks, promotional materials associated with the films release and screenplays which are the text from which the films are made, these are also considered primary sources.

Primary Resources on Microfilm: Microformat (which is the overarching term for microfilm, microfiche and microcard) is basically an older version of scanning. Material was photographed and placed on durable plastic material; the material on these “films” or “cards” could then be viewed with a special machine without damaging the original. There is always someone you can ask for help at the Media Commons, 3rd floor, Robarts).

Using Primary Sources on the Web (American Library Association) This brief guide is designed to provide students and researchers with information to help them evaluate the internet sources and the quality of primary materials that can be found online.