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Primary Sources

Questions to Ask of A Primary Source

  • What type of document is it? Who created it and why?


  • When was the document created? What physical details reveal this?


  • What was/is the purpose of the document?


  • What was the creator's situation or intention at the time of creation? What is the creator's relationship to the document? What evidence shows this?


  • Are there inconsistencies or ambiguities in the document? Does it make an argument? If so, is it supported or warranted? What makes it reliable or unreliable?


  • What does the document reveal about the period during which it was created?


  • What research questions could this primary source answer?


  • What else would you like to know about this document or its topic? How could you find the answers to those questions?