Primary Sources

In all of your Humanities courses, you will be expected to understand what primary sources are, how to evaluate appropriate primary sources, and how to write based upon your analysis of primary sources.


It is one thing to say primary sources are important and their context needs to be considered, but how does one put this into practice? This analysis guide can be applied to most varieties of primary sources to help find the deeper significance.

1. Identify the Source:

--What kind of source is it?
--What biases might it have?
--What limitations might it have?

2. Creation or Authorship:
--Who created it?
--How is the creator related to the period/event you are examining?
--What is the background of the author or creator (i.e. age, class, education, location, etc.)?
--How might these personal factors affect the author or creator’s view and message?

3. Purpose and Meaning:

--Why do you think this source was written or created?
--Was it private, shared by a small group, or meant to be public?
--Why did this author or creator choose this style of writing or expression?
--How is this choice of style related to the message?
--Did the creator or author choose a specific event or a broader focus (i.e. a battle versus a war)? Why do you think they chose this?

4. Supporting Evidence and Academic Grounding
--Are there any other sources that validate or support your opinions and conclusions?
--Are there any other sources available to verify questionable aspects of the primary source?
--How do your theories fit into the overall scholarship of the subject?