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Primary Sources

Important questions to ask when using a primary source

To effectively use a primary source a researcher must be able to fill in several blanks:

  • What is the item? 
  • Who wrote or made the item and when?
  • Where, how and why was the item created?
  • For whom did the creator intend the item?
  • Does the item raise any other questions; what is unknown about the source?
  • Can you find other information about the item from other sources?
  • Is the item unique?
  • Are there other materials that may shed light on the item? 
  • Do you have everything you need to understand the source?
  • What have other researchers said about this item or similar ones?
  • Does this source help me answer my research question?