Primary Source Evaluation Checklist
You can ask similar question of a primary document as you might of any other source,, but there are some additional questions that should hep you put the source in context.
- What is the purpose of this document?
- Is the content of this document related to my research topic / question?
- What new evidence does this document contribute to my project?
- Are there any notes that help to introduce the context of this document?
- When was the document published on the website, in the book or other source you found it in?
- Was document written right after the event or at some distance from the time of the event?
- What is the original purpose of this document? To persuade, provide documentation, for correspondence or a diary entry? Or other?
- Who was the original audience for this document?
- Was it intended to be a public (e.g. speech) or private document (e.g. diary or letter)?
- Is this a firsthand account written by a participant in the event or based on hearsay or interviews?
- Does the author of the site, book or other source where you find the document provide sources for his or her analysis of the document?
- Does the author of the site, book or other source where you found the document provide a source for where the document can be found (e.g. museum, library, archive, etc.)?
- Was the document transcribed or scanned into the computer using optical character recognition (OCR)?
- Compare the information in the document to other primary or secondary sources. Do the other sources contradict this one?
- Did the author of the document make any factual errors based on what you have read from secondary sources or tertiary sources?
- Did you find the document on a university, library or museum’s website or other credible source?
- What do you know about the education, training or experience of the person presenting and providing context to the document?
- What are the point of view and biases of the author?
- What was the role and/or place in society of the author of the document?
- Did the author have a stake in what happened or did they want to be perceived in a certain way?
- What assumptions or conclusions does the author make that are influenced by this time and place in history (e.g. status of women or people of color)?