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PSCI 384 - American Presidency: Primary Sources

Online Sources

Evaluating Primary Sources

When you use primary sources, you need to evaluate them just as you would any other type of source. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Who is the author or creator?
  • ​What biases or assumptions may have influenced the author or creator?
  • Who was the intended audience?
  • What is the origin of the primary source?
  • What was the significance of the source at the time it was created?
  • Has the source been edited or translated, or altered in some way from the original?
  • What questions could be answered about the time period by using this source?
  • What, if any, are the limitations of the source?
  • Does your understanding of the source fit with other scholars’ interpretations, or does it challenge their argument?
  • Can you substantiate the claims of this source with other primary sources?

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Subject Headings for Primary Sources in the Library Catalog

Subject headings to consider when searching for primary source documents in the library catalog (e.g., su:correspondence Truman, Harry):

  • Archiv*
  • —Biography
  • —Correspondence
  • —Diaries
  • —Interviews
  • —Notebooks, Sketchbooks
  • —Personal narratives
  • —Sources
  • —Speeches