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Primary Source Research: Document Analysis

How to do Primary Source Research

Primary Sources

Analyze All Sources

Just because something is a primary source, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have bias or the facts shouldn't be verified.

Start by determining the purpose/bias of the author of the document. Here are some factors to evaluate:

  • Date of creation - How close to event was item created? The closer to an event someone is the less reliant on memory he/she would be and therefore the item might be more accurate.
  • Author/creator - Was the author an eyewitness to the event or an expert on topic? Is he/she a credible and reliable witness or an expert?
  • Intended audience - Who was the intended recipient? For example a letter sent to a best friend, mother or newspaper could have a different tone and perhaps content as well.

If you are concerned that the author might be biased, you should consult other accounts and compare them. If several eyewitness accounts agree, you can feel confident that the events occurred as described in your original source.

Don't forget to validate/verify the information in the document. What other sources might you consult to verify the information in this item? City directories and phone books can be used to confirm addresses. Secondary sources are another option.

Subject Guide

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Kathryn Ray
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