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What Types of Sources Do Historians Use?

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by

Rebecca Farquhar

on 25 September 2014

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Transcript of What Types of Sources Do Historians Use?

What Types of Sources Do Historians Use?
Types of Sources
* When Historians study an event, they use sources related to the event.

*Historians classify the sources they use in two categories called:
** Primary Sources
** Secondary Sources
Primary Sources
* Firsthand information about
an event
* Includes words, images, or
objects created by persons
directly involved in an event
*Do not include historian's
analysis or interpretation
of the sources
Characteristics:
*
Physical/Material remains:
buildings, roads, tools, weapons, coins, tapestries, pottery, battle sites, and clothing
*
Geographic records:
maps, charts, place names
*
Visual records:
drawings/paintings, photographs
*
Written records:
letters, diaries, memos, laws, books, reports, trials, public meetings, inscriptions on buildings, receipts, email

Primary Sources
Examples:
Checking Your Understanding One
Imagine you are a historian who wants to know what American Middle School students learned in school from 1950 - 2000. Which of the following would be considered
Primary Sources
?
A. Interviews with people who went to
middle schools or taught middle school
in 1980 - 1990.
B. State laws about education
requirements in the 1970s.
C. A report written by a historian in 2010.
D. Textbooks used in schools in the 1950s - 1990s.


Secondary Sources
* Contain second hand information
* Created by people who were not eyewitnesses to the event
* Descriptions of events that include analysis or interpretation of primary sources to describe a past event
Characteristics:
* A written analysis of old firsthand interviews about an event.
* A book that describes an event written many years after the event.

Secondary Sources
Examples:
Look At The Usage of the Source
The
difference
between a Primary Source and Secondary Source is how the historian uses the source.
Checking Your Understanding Two
Imagine you are a historian who wants to know what American Middle School students learned in school from 1950 - 2000. Which of the following would be considered
Secondary Sources
?
A. An interview with the neighbor of a person who was a middle school teacher in the 1950s.
B. An article written in 2010 about middle school in 1960s.
C. A final exam from a social studies class in 1980.
D. A textbook about the history of middle school education.
Comparing Sources Activity
1. What are the differences between these two sources?
* For example, when studying what students learned in middle school from 1950 to 2000 a textbook used in that time period is a Primary Source - it's firsthand material.
* A textbook is also a Secondary Source
about the events written about in the textbook - it explains events long after
they happened.
Comparing Sources Activity
2. If you were studying factory life in Britain between 1800 and 1851, would these both be "primary sources?" One? None? Briefly explain.

3. Which of these two accounts makes factory working conditions seem more real to you? Why?

4. Which of the accounts is probably more reliable? Why?

Which Source Is The Best?
* A primary source is not necessarily better than a secondary source because not all primary sources are of equal value in helping a historian study an event.

* How does a historian decide which sources are the most accurate when studying an event?

Which Source Is The Best?
A Historian does
three
things when examining a source:

1. Distinguishes between facts and opinions
2. Checks for internal consistency or
contradictions
3. Checks for external consistency or
contradictions
- Corroboration - to confirm or give support to a statement, theory, or finding.
Fact or Opinion
* A fact is something that is true about a subject and can be tested
or proven.


* An
opinion
is what someone
thinks about that subject.

Fact or Opinion Checking Your Understanding
1. Which part of the following statement above is fact? (Underline one time). How do you know?

2. Which part is opinion? (Underline two times). How do you know?
5. Do you think that Edward Cheyney used testimony like Elizabeth Bentley's to write his account? Why or why not?


6. Historians do not include everything in their accounts. How do you think Mr. Cheyney decided what to include? What do you think made something important enough to include in Cheyney's account?
Internal Inconsistencies or Contradictions
* Internal - Within a single document.
*Internal Contradiction - The facts presented cannot all be true; they clash with each other.
* Internal Inconsistency - The facts are presented differently, which may raise questions about the source's accuracy.
* Look for clues such as: 56% of... ", or "The President attended ... "



* Look for clues such as: "I believe ...", It's obvious ... ", or "They should ... "
" Records show that most middle schools require students to take social studies; however, they should also require foreign languages."
Internal Inconsistencies or Contradictions - Checking Your Understanding
From the two statements above, which might be less accurate? Why?
External Inconsistencies or Contradictions
* External - When comparing multiple documents.
* External Contradictions - Facts in the two sources are at odds with each other and both cannot be true.
* External Inconsistency - Factual details are presented differently, which may raise questions about each sources' accuracy.
A. A diary entry states that John went to school on Monday, and then later says that John and Mary went to school on Monday?

B. A diary says that John went to school on Monday, and then later states that John never went to school.
External Inconsistencies or Contradictions - Checking Your Understanding:
From the two statements above, which might be less accurate?

A. A diary entry states that John went to school on Monday. An interview with another student indicates that John and Mary went to school on Monday.

B. A diary says that John went to school on Monday, but school attendance records show that John never went to school.

Section One
Section Two
WHY?
WHY?
Section Three
Section Four
Section Five
Section Six
Corroboration
Evidence that confirms or supports a statement, theory, or finding; confirmation.
http://wire.rutgers.edu/research_assignments_pri_second.html
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