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Critical Assessment of Primary and Secondary Sources

This LibGuide is intended to work through the process of analyzing and assessing primary and secondary sources.


Now that you have spent some time looking at the bibliographic entry for the Retkovitz in the encyclopedic New England Legal Executions, do your answers match the ones below?  

How many sources did the author use?

  • He used a single edition of a newspaper and only read four articles. 

Do you think he was able to tell the full story of what happened using only a very small sample of newspaper articles?

  • It can be argued that he did not tell the full story of the murder and court cases. He is missing information about the second trial, which is still considered a significant legal event. If you believe that he told the full story, can you explain why?  

What other sources should he have looked at?

  • We've already identified several reports that could have consulted, in addition, multiple Massachusetts newspapers covered the trial. At the very least he should have consulted the daily version of the Fall River News, and not just the evening edition. Are there other primary sources that could be used in chronicling this case? 


It can be argued that while the New England Legal Executions is usually considered to be the only major compendium of information on executions in New England, it is a problematic text, and should be used with caution, thus it is not considered a critical secondary source. 



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Claire T. Carney Library
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