Evaluating Primary Sources
As you work with your primary sources, keep in mind the following questions and ideas to help you evaluate these sources:
- Creator - Who created this document, and why? What is the creator's relationship to the events they are relating?
- Audience - What was the original audience for this document?
- What is Missing - What gaps are there in the document? What information does not appear? Why do you think this might be?
- Collection Context - What other materials are found around the document within the manuscript collection? How does the document fit into the story of the person, family, or organization that the collection is telling? Is the document typical or atypical of the collection?
- Historical Context - When was the document created? What else is happening during the creation of this document? How might that influence the document?
- Materiality - Think about the material nature of the document (paper, handwriting, length, size, etc.). How does this influence the way you read the document? What does it tell you about the creator and/or audience? What other evidence can you gain from the physical object that you might not find in a digital version?
Evaluating Secondary Sources
When evaluating your sources, don't forget to check for CRAAP (an acronym for the general categories of criteria to use when evaluating information and sources)
Currency: When was it published? Other more recent sources?
Relevance: Does the information answer your research question? Appropriate for the assignment? Does the source add something new to your knowledge of the topic?
Authority: What are the author’s credentials? Do other books and authors use this source?
Accuracy: Are there statements that you know are false? Errors? Has the work been reviewed (peers or editor)? Does the author have citations and sources?
Purpose: What is the author’s purpose e.g. to sell, entertain or inform? Is there an obvious bias? Are there alternative views presented? Does the author omit data or facts that may contradict their argument?