Some Key Concepts
eyewitness, primary, secondary, objective, subjective, fact, opinion, critical evaluation
Examples of primary and secondary sources and what we can glean from them.
“A primary source gives the words of the witnesses or the first recorders of an event. Primary sources include manuscripts, archives, letters, diaries, and speeches. … Secondary sources are ‘descriptions of the event derived from and based on primary sources’. The line between primary and secondary sources is often indistinct, for example, a single document may be a primary source on some matter and a secondary source on others.”Helen J. Poulton, The historian’s handbook (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1972), p.175-76.
Retrieved from Primary Sources Definition – University Libraries – UNT
- What stories can you tell, or begin to tell, using primary source documents?
- How do you read a document critically? What details does it give you to verify or research further?
- What are the limitations of primary sources? Of secondary sources?
- What are the benefits of each?
- What are the benefits and drawbacks of modern technologies with regard to research using primary and secondary sources?
- How can you verify, in either case, if a source is credible?
- Primary Source Analysis Tool (loc.gov)
- Guides BY SUBJECT – Research Guides at Library of Congress (loc.gov)
- Teaching with the Library of Congress (loc.gov)
- Early Vital Records of Massachusetts to the end of 1849-FC
Project Suggestions and Ways to Practice
- Using the links provided and others at the Library of Congress, select one or more documents from the Guide by Subject on a topic of interest to you.
- Do an internet search for “primary source document analysis worksheet,” review several, and choose one that seems most thorough. Use it to analyze something on the Library of Congress website, or something in your own home.
- Do the same for secondary sources. Search “secondary source analysis worksheet,” and use it to analyze an article in a text book, a newspaper opinion piece, a story you heard from someone, or another secondary source.
- Find an example of what can be both a primary and a secondary source. Analyze it first as a primary source, then as a secondary source.