This exercise is intended to reinforce the skills you practiced in Part Two, specifically analyzing and reading comprehension, and to introduce additional reading skills that are useful for researchers when working with primary sources. These skills, usually utilized in the order they are listed, are:
Researching using primary sources is a time-consuming, and sometimes frustrating, process. Always allow yourself triple the amount of time you think you need. This tripling is a fairly standard practice done by researchers who routinely use archives and other institutions that hold primary source materials.
The four reading methods work in conjunction with each other: you begin by skimming (general overview of the material) and/or scanning (locating specific facts), which then tell you which documents you will be doing close readings of, and based upon the close readings, you then decide which information needs to be corroborated. This methodology is particularly useful when there are large volumes of condensed information to be distilled.
While skimming can save you hours of laborious reading, it is not always the most appropriate way to read. It is a useful method to preview a more detailed reading or when reviewing a selection heavy in content. But when you skim, you may miss important points or overlook the finer shadings of meaning, for which a thorough reading will be required.
To skim, prepare yourself to move rapidly through the pages. You will not read every word; you will pay special attention to typographical cues-headings, boldface and italic type, indenting, bulleted and numbered lists. You will be alert for key words and phrases, the names of people and places, dates, nouns, and unfamiliar words. Some recommendations when skimming primary documents are:
Good skimmers do not skim everything at the same rate or give equal attention to everything. While skimming is always faster than your normal reading speed, you should slow down in the following situations:
Scanning, too, uses keywords and organizational cues. But while the goal of skimming is a bird's-eye view of the material, the goal of scanning is to locate and swoop down on particular facts.
Facts may be buried within long text passages that have relatively little else to do with your topic or claim. Skim this material first to decide if it is likely to contain the facts you need.
When you are scanning, it is important to:
Adapted from Skimming and Scanning (Butte College)
Close reading involves annotating text and looking for clues such as: patterns, repetitions, contradictions, and similarities that help the reader better understand purpose, meaning, and interconnected ideas. Close reading also involves posing questions, identifying main ideas, and paraphrasing key concepts.
Corroborating involves checking important details across multiple sources to determine points of agreement and disagreement. This is where secondary sources are utilized in research. Depending on the level of primary source research you are doing, it is not always possible to corroborate details which are provided in the document. It is your job as a researcher to assess if these details bear inclusion in your research as new historical evidence, or if they should be discredited, which requires an evidence based explanation of why they are not valid.
The materials for this exercise are part of the Frank Silvia professional and personal papers (MC 187), in the Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese-American Archives.
For this exercise, we ask that you read each group of articles sequentially, one at time, starting with group one and ending with group three. It is also a good idea to read the articles in the order they are attached.
As you read each group, keep in mind the 5 W's, and the answer the following questions as part of your analysis of this primary source:
It will be the answers to the 5 W's and the questions above that will allow you to have a greater understanding of the historical value of these primary sources.
What clues can you use to help you date a newspaper article?
What clues can you use to help you try and identify which newspaper an article may have been published in?
Did your answers to the analysis questions change as your read each group of articles?
Is there anything else you wish you had access to that would help you understand what happened in this case?
What secondary sources do you think would be helpful if you were to write a research paper about this case?
The newspaper articles in this exercise were obtained using two different sources, and using three different technologies:
While it may seem inconsequential how you obtain a copy of a newspaper article, there are things to consider:
Whenever possible it is a good idea to revert to the closest version of the "original" article to ensure that you have the complete article.