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What Exactly is a Primary Source?

by | Jun 16, 2022 | History | 0 comments


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Primary Source Analysis (100 points towards Final Grade) – Due Week 4:
Assignment Expectations: As part of your Research Project, the third assignment requirement expects students to complete a Primary Source Analysis Assignment of TWO primary sources on your chosen topic. For this assignment, you will do a search for two (2) primary sources from an appropriate database that houses primary sources related to your topic (further details below). Once students select two primary sources, they should complete the appropriate Primary Source Analysis Worksheet. Finally, after reading and analyzing your two sources, students will write a 250-word Primary Source Analysis Narrative for each primary source. Once again, for each primary source, students will submit a Primary Source Analysis Worksheet and a 250-word Primary Source Analysis Narrative. Keep reading to find out more about where to find sources for this assignment and what your analysis should include. As always, if you have questions, please feel free to reach out to your instructor.
But First, What Exactly is a Primary Source? Primary Sources are original records of the political, economic, artistic, scientific, social and intellectual thoughts and achievements of specific historical periods. They are produced by the people who participated in and witnessed the past. Primary sources offer a variety of points of view and perspectives of events, issues, people and places. These original sources were used or created by someone with firsthand experience of an event and these records can be found anywhere – i.e. at home or in government archives. Moving forward, if you still have questions about primary sources, please email me with questions. If you prefer further verification, please feel free to email me the sources that you plan to use.
National Archives: Primary Source Analysis Worksheets – The National Archives has created analysis worksheets to help you work with primary sources. Copies of these worksheets are provided as attachments in the Primary Source Analysis assignment. The worksheets consist of a combination of checklists and short-answer questions that will help you focus on the most important elements of many different types of historical documents. You will need the worksheets to complete the Primary Source Analysis assignment
Where can you find Primary Sources? Where should students look for primary sources?? Well, the UMGC LIBRARY, of course!! Why, you ask? Well, the UMGC library subscribes to many databases that contain such resources and are available to you in full-text and electronic format. Additionally, students can find sources through the Library of Congress, National Archives or University Libraries and Archives.
Here are some helpful links to get started with the research process.
What are Primary Sources??
Library of Congress: Teaching with Primary Sources (video and transcript) – definition of primary and secondary sources and why use primary sources
Library of Congress: Why Use Primary Sources
Finding Primary Sources
Library of Congress: Finding Primary Sources
National Archives: Finding Primary Sources
About UMGC Library OneSearch
UMGC Database Searching Basics
UMGC Research Guide for History: Primary Sources
How to Cite Primary Sources
Library of Congress: Citing Primary Sources – Chicago style
How do I Analyze Primary Sources?
Library of Congress: Analyzing a Primary Source (video and transcript)
Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with questions about finding appropriate primary sources for your research. Do not use resources from,, online encyclopedias or similar tertiary sources. While these tertiary sources are useful for general knowledge, they are not primary sources. Should students use one or more of these sites, then they will not receive credit and the instructor will ask you to redo this assignment.
Assignment Directions: After selecting, reading and analyzing your primary source(s), please make sure that both analyses follow the format below and includes the following information. Please note, students must submit a Primary Source Analysis Worksheet for each source AND a Primary Source Analysis Narrative for each source. If possible, please save all of your work in one PDF or Word document file to submit to your instructor for review.
Complete a Primary Source Analysis Worksheet for each primary source. Please make sure to elaborate with your answers. The more information, the better!
Format: Each Primary Source Analysis Narrative should be typed in a word document, with 1-inch margins, double spaced, and include no less than 250 words.
Bibliography: At the top of each Primary Source Analysis Narrative, students should provide a complete bibliographic entry. This complete bibliographic entry should include a formal citation, including the URL and your date of access. How should you cite your primary source?? Check out the link below.Library of Congress: Citing Primary Sources – Chicago Style
Analysis and Content: Each Primary Source Analysis Narrative should include a detailed summary of source– in your own words. Ultimately, this should be written within the first two paragraphs of your analysis and should:Identify the type of source, author, when and where the source was produced, and any unique quality or characteristics
Summary of source
Strengths and Weaknesses of source; any unanswered questions
What the source indicates about the time period it was produced and how the source defined, influenced and/or shaped history within the time frame of the course and possibly on a global scale.
Each primary source should explain how the article pertains to your researchIdeally this information would be stated at the end of your analysis
It is important that students share more than a simple sentence in this analysis. I would like to see a paragraph dedicated to this portion of the assignment.
Submitting Your Work: Students can submit their work under the Primary Source Assignment directions. Click on this assignment, scroll to the bottom of the page where you see “Add Attachments,” and then attach assignment here. Students can also submit this assignment through the Assignment tab. Students will also see the rubric attached to this assignment. Please make sure to review the rubric before submitting your final draft. Also, please remember to put your name on your document(s). Do NOT assume that because you upload it here that it is clear whose document it is. Thanks.


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