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HIST 2990 (Silvestri): The Basics

Primary Sources

Questions to ask about a primary source? is it verified; who is the speaker; where did it take place; context of the source; who was there/mentioned; when was it written

Defining a primary source: 

"A primary source is a document, image or artifact ... created contemporaneously with the event under discussion." (Williams, Historian's Toolbox, 2nd ed., p. 56)

Primary sources are evidence from participants in or eyewitnesses to an event.

Examples:

  • Diaries, letters, speeches, memoirs/autobiographies, oral interviews, newspaper & magazine articles...
  • Images: photographs, sound & video recordings, maps...
  • Artifacts: coins, receipts, schedules, tombstones, furniture, jewelry, DNA evidence...
  • Public records: birth, death, probate, census records; court cases, official government documents...
  • Creative works:  paintings, movies, statues...

Formats:

  • Original manuscripts or records
  • Authoritative transcriptions in printed volumes or digital form
  • Reproductions--digital, microfilm, facsimile...

What is Research?

Definition: gathering information; answering questions; notetaking; asking questions

What is a database?

Definition: collection of information; specific reference area; orangranized and searchable

Secondary Sources

Questions to ask about a secondary source?: why is this person writing about this; who is writing about this; what biases might the author have; what are the sources they used; when was it written