Skip to Main Content

Primary Sources

A guide to understanding and searching for primary sources

Finding Primary Sources in Book Collections

You can search for primary sources in the Library catalogue. Enter the term(s) that describe your topic and add one or more of the following words:

  • correspondence
  • diaries
  • sources
  • pamphlets
  • personal narratives
  • pictorial works
  • interviews
  • drama
  • fiction
  • poetry
  • speeches

To find works written by individuals or reports from organizations, select the "Advanced Search" option and search by “Author/creator”.

Some examples:

  • Charitable Irish Society
  • Howe, Joseph

                                          Screenshot of Novanet advanced search, with Author/creator field circled and "Joseph Howe" input into the search field.


To find material relating to your topic or event and published during the time period of the topic or event, try using the “Advanced Search.” Enter your keywords in the search boxes (Anywhere, Title, Author, and more search options in drop-down boxes in the search fields) and narrow your search by the year of publication.

Some examples:

  • Subject keywords: Halifax explosion and Year: 1917
  • Subject keywords: Springhill mine disaster and Year: 1958 to: 1959

 Screenshot of Novanet advanced search, with "Any field" circled in black, "Halifax explosion" input into the search field, and search dates modified in the lower right-hand corner.

These methods will not retrieve all primary sources, but they will get you started finding primary materials in the catalogue.

Example Searches of Primary Sources