What is primary source information, and how do I use it for research?
“Primary sources are actual records that
have survived from the past, such as letters, photographs, articles of
clothing.” Examples include: “personal papers, government documents, letters,
oral accounts, diaries, maps, photographs, reports…artifacts, coins, stamps,
“Secondary sources are accounts of the past created by people writing about events sometime after they happened. For example, your history textbook is a secondary source. Someone wrote most of your textbook long after historical events took place.” (http://memory.loc.gov/learn/lessons/psources/source.html)
CAN YOU FIND THE PRIMARY SOURCES?
Look at these links. Which are primary source information and which are secondary? Explain your answer.
Nooksack Reporter: http://wagenweb.org/whatcom/newspapers/nook.htm
Washington Pioneer, George Bush: http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&File_Id=5646
WHAT YOU DO IS PRIMARY, TOO!
MINDWALK: What primary source information do you leave behind every day?
Look at the clothes you are wearing today. If researchers found them 100 years from now, what could they know about you and your life? Could they tell if you are a boy or a girl? Could they tell what sports you like? Could they tell what music or entertainment you like or where you live or travel?
If a researcher looked at a picture of your class,
what would they know
Now think about a day in your life and what primary source information you create every day.
1. Think about all the activities you were involved in during the past 24 hours. List as many of these activities as you can remember.
2. For each activity on your list, write down what evidence, if any, your activities might have left behind. (Example: Did you send an email to a friend?—evidence that you have technology. Or write a poem in class?—evidence of what you learn in school and of your creativity.)
3. Review your entire list, and what you wrote about evidence your activities left behind. Then answer these questions:
o Which of your daily activities were most likely to leave trace evidence behind?
o What, if any, of that evidence might be preserved for the future? Why? (Did you put that poem in your writing portfolio?)
o What might be left out of an historical record of your activities? Why? (Did you put an old shirt into the garbage or rag bag?)
o What would a future historian be able to tell about your life and your society based on evidence of your daily activities that might be preserved for the future?
TYPES OF PRIMARY
Your clothes are artifacts—things that you leave behind as evidence of your life. The ring you looked at earlier is an artifact. There are many kinds of Primary Sources.
Open this link http://memory.loc.gov/learn/lessons/psources/types.html to find out about:
(ex. Posters and newspapers)
ANALYSIS OF PRIMARY SOURCES
Not all Primary Sources have good, accurate, or relevant information. An email or diary or BLOG might show one person’s opinions and thoughts, but not reveal much about everyone else. It might be bias—opinion instead of fact.
Historians and researchers evaluate primary sources by looking at time, place, and bias.
Time and Place Rule (from: http://memory.loc.gov/learn/lessons/psources/analyze.html)
To judge the quality of a primary source, historians use the time and place rule. This rule says the closer in time and place a source and its creator were to an event in the past, the better the source will be. Based on the time and place rule, better primary sources (starting with the most reliable) might include:
The historians' second rule is the bias rule. It says that every source is biased in some way. Documents tell us only what the creator of the document thought happened, or perhaps only what the creator wants us to think happened. As a result, historians follow these bias rule guidelines when they review evidence from the past:
When you evaluate a primary source, first make sure it really will help you with your research—does it help answer your question?
Then ask these questions—(from: http://memory.loc.gov/learn/lessons/psources/studqsts.html)
Practice Analyzing a Primary Source--
Here is part of the Oregon Trail diary of Narcissa Whitman in 1836. She was one of the first pioneers in Washington. Her mother suggested she keep a diary, and so she wrote as if she was writing to her mother.
Read the diary and ask the questions from above. Do you learn about life on the Oregon Trail from this primary source document? Were you surprised by her description? What type of primary source is it?
"I wish I could describe to you how we live so that you can realize it. Our manner of living is far preferable to any in the States. I never was so contented and happy before neither have I enjoyed such health for years. In the morning as soon as the day breaks the first that we hear is the words, "Arise! Arise!" - then the mules set up such a noise as you never heard, which puts the whole camp in motion. We encamp in a large ring, baggage and men, tents and wagons on the outside, and all the animals except the cows, which are fastened to pickets, within the circle. This arrangement is to accommodate the guard, who stand regularly every night and day, also when we are in motion, to protect our animals from the approach of Indians, who would steal them. As I said, the mules' noise brings every man on his feet to loose them and turn them out to feed.
Now, H. and E., you must think it very hard to have to get up so early after sleeping on the soft ground, when you find it hard work to open your eyes at seven o'clock. Just think of me - every morning at the word, "Arise!" we all spring. While the horses are feeding we get breakfast in a hurry and eat it. By this time the words, "Catch up! Catch up," ring through the camp for moving. We are ready to start usually at six, travel till eleven, encamp, rest and feed, and start again about two; travel until six, or before, if we come to a good tavern, then encamp for the night."
GETTING INFORMATION FROM PRIMARY SOURCES
Whatever kind of primary source you use for your research, you need to be able to take notes and gather information to answer your question.
Things to remember:
photographs and visual primary sources—
Practice getting information from photographs:
Looking at artifacts--
Practice getting information from artifacts:
Now you know about Primary Sources.
You can tell primary source information from secondary source information.
You know different kinds of primary sources.
You can analyze primary sources of information.
You can gather important information from primary sources.
These fascinating sources of information can add detail, authenticity and personal perspective to your research projects.
Primary Source Sites:
Civil Rights Photos: Two Classrooms
Eye Witness to History: http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/
National Archives: http://www.archives.gov/education/
Papers of George Washington: http://gwpapers.virginia.edu/
Do History: http://dohistory.org/
National Museum of American History: http://americanhistory.si.edu/
The History Place: http://www.historyplace.com/
Teaching with Documents: http://www.edteck.com/dbq/
Primary Source Analysis Sheets: http://www.mdhs.org/teachers/worksheets.html
100 Milestone Documents: http://www.ourdocuments.gov/content.php?flash=true&page=milestone
Land, People and Time: Exploring Northwest Treaty History: http://washingtonhistoryonline.org/treatytrail/teaching/sources.htm
Whatcom County Census Records: http://wagenweb.org/whatcom/censusindex.htm
Immigration Explorer (Move the arrow along the time line to see how immigrant populations changed.) http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/03/10/us/20090310-immigration-explorer.html
Ellis Island: http://www.ellisisland.org/
Destination America: http://www.pbs.org/destinationamerica/usim_wn.html
WLMA information on Primary Sources: http://www.wlma.org/primarysources