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Primary Sources

Learn how to find, identify, and evaluate primary sources.

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How to Evaluate Primary Sources

Use the questions below to consider if and how you should incorporate a source into your research. Primary sources are essential to historical research, but it is important to analyze your sources fully to ensure that you understand and represent them in an accurate way. 

Note: Not every question will work for every source, and many may not be clear from the source itself. Look for background information attached to the source by the archivist or historian.  


  • Who was the author or creator of this source? 
  • What biases, privileges, affiliations, or assumptions influenced the author/creator? 


  • Why was this source created? What was its significance at the time it was created? 
  • Who was the intended audience of this source? 

Historical Context 

  • When was the source created?  
  • How did the historical context in which the source was created impact the source?  
  • What can we learn about the time period from the source? 

Other Considerations 

  • What are the limitations of the source? 
  • Whose voice is not represented by the source? Why? 
  • How does the information in this source compare to other primary and secondary sources about this topic?