Analyzing Primary Sources


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  • Some primary sources may be judged more reliable than others, but every source is biased in some way. As a result, historians read sources skeptically and critically. They also cross-check sources against other evidence and sources. Historians follow a few basic rules to help them analyze primary sources. Read these rules below. Then read the questions for analyzing primary sources. Use these rules and questions as you analyze primary source documents yourself.
  • Documents tell us only what the creator of the document thought happened, or perhaps only what the creator wants us to think happened.
  • The first stage in analyzing a document
  • The second stage in analyzing a document
  • Third stage of analysis
  • Overall analysis
  • This is the source they will be taking a look at…the Google doc has been modified for the actual analysis.
  • Analyzing Primary Sources

    1. 1. Analyzing Sources Primary Sources
    2. 2. Primary Sources <ul><li>Primary sources are actual records that have survived from the past. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Published documents include books, magazines, newspapers, government documents, non-government reports, literature of all kinds, advertisements, maps, pamphlets, posters, laws, and court decisions. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Unpublished documents include personal letters, diaries, journals, wills, deeds, family Bibles containing family histories, school report cards. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Visual documents include photographs, films, paintings, and other types of artwork. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Oral traditions & oral histories provide another way to learn about the past from people with firsthand knowledge of historical events. </li></ul></ul>
    3. 3. Secondary Sources <ul><li>Secondary sources are accounts of the past created by people writing about events sometime after they happened. </li></ul>
    4. 4. Rules to Analyzing Sources <ul><li>Time & Place Rule </li></ul><ul><li>Judges the quality of the source </li></ul><ul><li>The closer in time and place a source and its creator were to an event in the past, the better the source will be. </li></ul><ul><li>Better primary sources might include: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Accounts created at the time it occurred , by firsthand observers and participants; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accounts created after the event occurred, by firsthand observers and participants; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accounts created after the event occurred, by people who did not participate or witness the event , but who used interviews or evidence from the time of the event. </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. Rules to Analyzing Sources <ul><li>Bias Rule </li></ul><ul><li>Every source is biased in some way. As a result, historians follow these bias rule guidelines: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Read source critically with skepticism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Consider the creator’s point of view. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cross-check and compare source with related sources and pieces of evidence. </li></ul></ul>
    6. 6. Sourcing <ul><li>Before reading the document ask yourself: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Who wrote/created this? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What is the author’s point of view? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Why was it written? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>When was it written? (A long time or short time after the event?) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Is this source believable? Why? Why not? </li></ul></ul>
    7. 7. Contextualizing <ul><li>Imagining the Setting: </li></ul><ul><li>What else was going on at the time the source was written/created? </li></ul><ul><li>What was it like to be alive at this time? </li></ul><ul><li>What things were different back then? What things were the same? </li></ul><ul><li>What would it look like to see this event through the eyes of someone who lived back then? </li></ul>
    8. 8. Corroboration <ul><li>Cross-checking documents: </li></ul><ul><li>What do other pieces of evidence say? </li></ul><ul><li>Am I finding the same information everywhere? </li></ul><ul><li>Am I finding different versions of the story? (If yes, why might that be?) </li></ul><ul><li>Where else could I look to find out about this? </li></ul><ul><li>What pieces of evidence are most believable? </li></ul>
    9. 9. Close Reading <ul><li>Ask yourself: </li></ul><ul><li>What claims does the author make? </li></ul><ul><li>What evidence does the author use to support those claims? </li></ul><ul><li>How is this document supposed to make me feel? </li></ul><ul><li>What words or phrases does the author use to convince me that he/she is right? </li></ul><ul><li>What information does the author leave out? </li></ul>
    10. 10. Journal Extract ~ John Hunter