While there are no absolute rules about how to read and interpret primary sources, it is commonly accepted that by answering the 5 W's (and an H!) you should obtain a good understanding of the document.
As a first step, it is recommended that you read the document from beginning to end without taking notes. Read the document as often as you need to, until you feel like you have a good grasp of what it is and what it says.
As a second step, read the document and take notes, answering the 5 W's:
And the H:
Each of these questions has a factual answer and none of them can be answered with a simple yes or no. The idea is to get you to do a critical reading of the document to understand how it will support your research.
It is also a good idea to answer the following questions when reading primary source documents:
If you would like more information on reading primary sources, these are some good places to start:
The document for this exercise is part of the Milton Silva Papers (MC 93), in the Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese-American Archives.
Read the document and answer the following questions:
Remember to keep the context, circumstances and time period in mind as you read the document.
It is by answering these questions that you will begin to understand the historical value of the document and what information it can provide you for your (theoretical) research paper.
What kind of research topic would this document be an obvious primary source for?
If we expand our idea of how to use this document as a primary source, what other kinds of research would this be helpful for?
What kinds of secondary sources can we use to help us understand this document and our research?