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Primary Source Literacy: Evaluate


Learning Outcomes

  1. Understand and recognize the creator.
  2. Ask thoughtful questions about creator's bias, perspective, and authority.
  3. Ask thoughtful questions about date, distribution, purpose, and physicality of item.
  4. Exhibit awareness of one's own bias.

Key Terms

The individual, group, or organization that is responsible for something's production, accumulation, or formation.

Evaluation Exercise

  1. Find a digital collection from your geographic area.  University libraries and archives are usually the most likely, but try other large or well-known libraries or archives in your area.
  2. Select a primary source to observe closely.  (It can be a document, photo, map, whatever interests you.)
  3. Work through the questions in the right hand box, observing your primary source thoughtfully.
  4. Think about what questions you still have.  Objects in digital collections are often out of their original context; where might you go to understand more about your primary source and its context? 

Questions for your primary source

  • WHAT is it?
  • WHO created it?
  • WHERE was it created?
  • WHEN was it created?
  • WHY was it created?

Additional questions:

  • What are the assumptions made by your primary source? In other words, what does it tell us about societal attitudes at that time?
  • Can you trust your primary source to present “historical fact”? If not, where does it present a subjective viewpoint?
  • What are some search terms you might use to find out more about the topic(s) in this primary source?