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Stick figures building a stick figure

house with a stick figure dog
watching a stick figure cat looking
at a stick figure mouse looking at a
stick figure house being built by
stick figure people.
Learning Objective: Understand how to assess the value and
limitations of a source with reference to its origin, purpose and

Whats the point?

All sources must be approached with caution
When reading a source one must consider
who wrote it, why they wrote it, what is
included, what is left out, and how helpful
this source will be to a historians
(N.B. What a historian is trying to learn is crucial
to how we must understand a sources values
and limitations.)
Date of original publication
Date of any additional additions
Location of publication
How might the time, place, and author of this
work affect the work produced?
For example: Mao Zedong or Ho Chi Minh will have
different interpretations of their respective civil
conflicts than the American government officials
who supported interference with them
Why did the author write/draw/compose this work?
* Who is the intended audience?
* Does this author have something to hide?
* Is he/she trying to convince anyone of
* For example: Is this a textbook that is written
to inform a high school student or a press
conference given to reassure the American
What is the message of the source?
How is the message conveyed through
pictures and images?
What is the tone?
Is the language objective or does it sound
exaggerated or one-sided?
What information or examples does the author
use to support their point?
A Definition of Primary and
Secondary Sources
a.Primary letter, journal, interview, speeches, photos, paintings,
etc. Primary sources are created by someone who is the first
person; these documents can also be called original source
documents. The author or creator is presenting original materials
as a result of discovery or to share new information or opinions.
Primary documents have not been filtered through
interpretation or evaluation by others. In order to get a
complete picture of an event or era, it is necessary to consult
multipleand often contradictorysources.
b.Secondary materials that are written with the benefit of
hindsight and materials that filter primary sources through
interpretation or evaluation. Books commenting on a historical
incident in history are secondary sources. Political cartoons can be
tricky because they can be considered either primary or secondary.
A Note on Primary and Secondary
For the purposes of evaluation, a source
has no more or less intrinsic value to
historians just because it is primary or
Always focus on the specific origins and
purpose of the source not whether it is
primary or secondary. You do not need to
give this distinction in your answer.
How is this source useful to your investigation?
What is the authors purpose and how can that
perception aid your investigation?
Has this work been particularly well researched?
Is this a secondary source? If so, does that allow
the author distance to create an objective
Is this a primary source? If so, does that allow
the author to provide a viewpoint that no one
else can? (since they experienced it for
What about this source hinders your
Does this author only present part of the story?
If this is a secondary source, does the author
deliver only part of the story? (i.e. Are there any
important details/perspectives missing?)
If this is a primary source, what viewpoint does
the author present? What is missing from his/her
side of the story?
Limitations Explained
The task here is not to point out
weaknesses of the source, but rather to
say: at what point does this source cease
to be of value to us as historians?
Limitations Explained
With a primary source document, having
an incomplete picture of the whole is a
given because the source was created by
one person (or a small group of people),
naturally they will not have given every
detail of the context. Do not say that the
author left out information unless you
have concrete proof (from another
source) that they chose to leave
Limitations Explained
Also, it is obvious that the author did not have
prior knowledge of events that came after the
creation of the document. Do not state that
the document does not explain X (if X
happened later).
A Note on Bias
Being biased does not limit the value
of a source! If you are going to comment
on the bias of a document, you must go into
detail. Who is it biased towards? Who is it
biased against? What part of a story does it
leave out? Sometimes a biased piece of work
shows much about the history you are
How to write about: ORIGIN

In one or two sentences state

the origins of the source.
What type of document is it?
When and where was it
Who produced it?
How to write about: PURPOSE
In one or two sentences state the purpose of the
The purpose of the source
Who was the intended audience?
For what purposes was it written?
Key Words to possibly use here:
Persuade Inform Debate Sell
Convince Detail Outline Rally
Communicate DescribeEntice
How to write about: CONTENT
In one or two sentences state the major content
within the source.
The Content is basically the important facts,
details, or statements that enforce the authors

What is said in this source that validates the

content of the source? What isnt said?
How to write about: VALUE
In one or two well-written paragraph(s)
explain the value of the document for
historians. Provide and explain specific
evidence from the document to support
your answers. A minimum oftwo
valuesmust be proven with reference to
origin, purpose, and content.
With reference to theorigin and purpose,
what is the value of the document for
How to write about: Value
This document is valuable because it was written
______________________ and the author was ____________________.
This shows that ____________________.

Key Words to possibly use here:

Bias Propaganda Public Writing
Historical Perspective Advertisement Campaign
Letter Memoir Private Writing
Written at the time of the events
How to write about: Limitations
In one or two well-written paragraph(s) explain the
limitations of the document. Remember to make
specific references to the document in your response.
A minimum oftwo limitationsmust be proven,
with reference to origin, purpose, and content.
With reference to theorigin, purpose, and content
what are the limitations of the document for
historians studying this event?
How to write about: Limitations (continued)
Because this document was written by
_______________ in ________________, it has a limitation
of ___________________.

Key Words to possibly use here:

Bias Propaganda Advertisement
Historical Perspective Campaign Letter
Memoir Private Writing Public Writing
Written at the time of the events
This origin of this source is a _____________
that was written by ____________in
____________in___________. Its purpose was
to _______________ so _____________. It
contains ______________ and ____________.
A value of this is that it __________________.
However, a limitation of the source is that it
The origin of the source is aletterthat
was written byThomas
Jeffersonin1787in Virginia.Its purpose
was toconvince George Washington to
veto the National Treasurysothere would
be no central bank.A value of this
document is that it shows how the anti-
Federalists were feeling about Alexander
Hamilton's idea for a National Treasury.
However, a limitation of the source is
thatit only shows Thomas Jefferson's
Churchills Iron Curtain Speech
From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in
the Adriatic, an iron curtain has
descended across the continent.
Behind that line lie all the capitals of
the ancient states of Central and
Eastern Europe.
-Winston Churchill - March 5, 1946
Churchills Iron Curtain Speech
Origin - Value -
Speech so it is a primary Clear expectation of what
source - straight from the Great Britain wants and their
speakers mouth view during the Cold War
Given by Churchill Hearing from someone very
(former Prime Minister of
important to Great Britain
Great Britain)
Real implications - primary
March 5, 1946
Purpose -
Limitations -
Tell Americans that they
need the US alliance - Is this what the British
didn't want to be all Government really wants?
alone We don't have the Soviet
To spread the ideas of side of the argument
the "iron curtain" - What are his private
making America know thoughts about this topic?
about this threat