After all this, ask yourself what the author's thesis might be. Obviously, you should never take a historical document at face value, which means you need to dive beneath the surface to look at where that document came from. Keep these biases in mind as you read. Sometimes, if a primary source was created even a little while after an event occurred, a person looking back on the event will have a different perspective than they would have had they created a source during an event. On the other hand, the struggle to achieve complete objectivity also affects the ways people have written history.
. The Declaration of Independence is a primary source. Keep the following in mind when reading primary sources. Whether you were analyzing a primary source for a class discussion, an essay, or for your own personal use, you can use what you learned about the reliability of the source to write or speak about it in a more informed way. It is up to you to judge, based on what you know so far about the book's themes and arguments.
Even if you believe you can't arrive at the answers, imagining possible answers will aid your comprehension. This mental map is based on gathering strong background information; however, eventually, they need to examine the ideas in the text. Lesson Summary Students need to take a systematic approach to reading and comprehending primary sources. Reading academic material well is an active process that can be far removed from the kind of pleasure reading most of us are used to. Syntax can be a major stumbling block for students when reading older texts: we recommend scaffolding and careful preparation of the documents to help your students meet the challenge. What reinforces or counters points made in other readings? Each kind of source presents its own challenges and requires a slightly different method of thinking and study.
To evaluate primary sources, explore the following parts of the text or artifact by following these steps: 1. While history students primarily get their information from textbooks, historians work with primary sources, documents written in the time of the event being studied. When you come across a particularly interesting or controversial passage, watch to see what is cited. At first glance this might seem simple, but when it comes to historical documents, these questions can be harder to answer than you think. Question the author All writing is done with a purpose. Whether willing to admit it or not, it's easy for a teacher to fundamentally change meaning just because he has become sick of reformulating the text.
If you are reading a primary source that your teacher or professor gave you, there may be a paragraph of introductory material. Remember, the goal of a doing research in history is to build a complete, nuanced picture of historical events, so when working with primary sources, you should always be asking yourself how the document can help shed light on that story. As you write or speak, note the possible biases and discuss how the source may still be useful. Finding other criticisms about the document, reading those, and evaluating the opinions of other writers is a valuable last step. Also look at how this work could be used to support arguments from secondary sources.
Things like political events and movements, an author's ideological bents or biases, or an author's relationship to existing political and cultural institutions often have an impact on the way history is written. Evaluating a primary source As with most things, it's good to start your analysis of a primary source with the most basic questions. Those that look good that answer your research question you save. Teaching your students to read primary sources will allow them to discover the truth from the past just as historians do. There is no better way to understand events in the past than by examining the sources--whether journals, newspaper articles, letters, court case records, novels, artworks, music or autobiographies--that people from that period left behind. Is it prescriptive--telling you what people thought should happen--or descriptive--telling you what people thought did happen? Students can always read a secondary source that talks about the importance of a particular primary document; however, that isn't thinking like a historian. Frame of Reference: · How do the ideas and values in the source differ from the ideas and values of our age? Santa Barbara, Calif: Libraries Unlimited, 2012.
Please if you have feedback. You are now finally ready to read in earnest. I think that's a valuable suggestion. Read the foreword and introduction if an article, read the first paragraph or two. These clashing viewpoints mean that historical research can't be done by just looking at one source.
What was the author's message or argument? Constitution good for the people of the United States? The purpose behind a piece of writing matters, and you can't evaluate a primary source until you understand something about the motives of the author. What are the benefits of using this kind of source? People are complex and are always a product of the time and place that produced them; no one who sits down to write is going to be able to produce a truly objective record of historical events. Pitch those that dont address your specific question. Reading primary sources requires that you use your historical imagination. Question the author All writing is done with a purpose. Which source do you think is more credible? Two people can easily see the same event in completely different ways, and it's up to you as the historian to evaluate their claims and form your own interpretation.
Look at the physical nature of your source. What is a primary source? Remember, you cannot address each and every one of these questions in your presentation or in your paper, and I wouldn't want you to. In an utterly neutral document, the creator is not aware that she or he has any special stake in the construction and content of the document. Sources provide our means of access to the past and are the raw materials out of which history is made. Things like political events and movements, an author's ideological bents or biases, or an author's relationship to existing political and cultural institutions often have an impact on the way history is written. Also look at how this work could be used to support arguments from secondary sources. Careful Preparation of Documents See our on adapting and modifying documents for ways to make difficult documents more accessible for students.
Printed copies of original sources, provided they have been undertaken with scrupulous care such as the published letters of the Founding Fathers , are usually an acceptable substitute for their handwritten originals. A primary source is a contemporary item that presents a first-hand account of the time period you're studying. But while it may be impossible to erase these prejudices completely, it is your responsibility to be aware of them and to gauge how they affect your own interpretation of a text. These can include books, letters, newspapers, video, census data, and a wide range of other materials. They need a cognitive map to follow as they read.