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Special Collections & Archives: Researching the Collections

Special Collections and Archives is home to rare and early printed books, journals, manuscripts, photographs, maps, oral histories, ephemera, digitised collections, and much more! These valuable, historically significant, and often unique materials are a treasure trove for researchers, providing rich sources for topics in many disciplines.


We invite students, faculty, and scholars to consult our resources and request reproductions for private study, scholarship, or research. A photocopier is available for patron use in the Reading Room. You can also use a digital camera to take photographs, but flash photography is not permitted.

Approval of reproduction requests is always subject to the physical condition and value of the materials, as well as copyright laws. Requests are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Using Primary, Secondary & Tertiary Sources

Sources of information can be categorised as primary, secondary or tertiary, depending on the originality of the material. Whether conducting research in the arts, humanities or social sciences, it is important to be able to distinguish between each source type, and to understand their unique characteristics and purposes. In doing so, you will be able to make the most of their potential use, and ultimately become a more skilled researcher.

Sources defined

In short, the distinction between sources illustrates the extent to which the author of a work is removed from the event being described, informing the reader as to whether the report is a first-hand impression (or the first record created immediately following an event), or conveying the experiences and opinions of others after the fact.

Primary sources are original, first-hand accounts of an event or time period on which other research is based. These materials have not been filtered through interpretation or evaluation. Examples include diaries, letters, contemporary newspaper articles, photographs, interviews, and speeches.

Secondary sources interpret, explain, or summarise primary sources and are usually in the form of published works such as histories, biographical works, bibliographies, commentaries, or literary criticism such as journal articles. However, what some define as a secondary source, others may define as tertiary.

Tertiary sources are sources that identify and locate primary and secondary sources. These can include bibliographies, indices, abstracts, almanacs, directories, bibliographies (also considered secondary), and dictionaries and encyclopedias (also considered secondary).