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History of the United States HY201

Thinking About Primary Resources

Some useful questions to help you as you read, see, and analyze primary documents.

·         Reading and analyzing a written document

Who wrote the document?

When was it written?

Where was it written?

What type of document is it? (letter, political decree, religious teaching, etc.)

Why was the document written?

            Under what circumstances was it composed?

What point of view does it reflect?

Who was the intended audience?

What about the document is believable and what is not?

What can the document tell us about:

            -the person who wrote it?

            -the society/time/etc. from which he or she (the author) came from?

What kinds of questions can be answered/cannot be answered with this document?

What makes this particular source valuable?

·         Viewing and analyzing a visual source

When and where was the image or artifact made?

Who made the image?

How did he/she/they make it?

Who paid for or commissioned it?

Where might the image or artifact have originally been displayed or used?

For what audience(s) was it intended?

What message(s) is it trying to convey?

How could it be interpreted differently depending on who viewed it or used it?

What can the image tell us about:

            -the person who created it?

            -the society/time/etc. from which he or she (the author) came from?