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HIST 390-2: Second World War - McGrath: Finding Primary Sources

Resources for McGrath's HIST 390 Research Methods - Second World War

Primary Sources

Think about these questions when evaluating primary sources:

  • Ask who is responsible for the information.
    Who are they? What's their story? Are there things about their life, job, gender, location, or anything else that might impact what they're telling you?

  • Ask who the original audience was.
    Get a sense for why the information was created in the first place. Are you reading letters meant for someone's boss or someone's sweetheart? Is it a private journal or a public newsletter? Are they creating the information for their own benefit, or were they hired? What information might they include, remove, or be less than truthful about depending on the audience?

  • Ask whether other sources match.
    Can you find other primary sources that back up what you're seeing? If they differ, what are possible reasons for the differences? Use other sources to help you uncover biases and different points of view.