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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.

Using this LibGuide

This LibGuide is organized into three formal parts and it is recommended that you follow the chronological order as you work through each part. The idea is that with each part you will grow in comfort with reading and analyzing primary sources, and increase your ability to think critically.

Part One: refresher of what primary and secondary sources are and the cyclical process of researching. 

Part Two and Three:  how to read and interpret primary sources. You will be asked to complete two exercises of varying difficulty.  

Part Three--Secondary sources: how to analyze secondary sources and figure out if they are appropriate to your research or not. 

There is also information on how to cite primary sources and information on how to contact the history librarian. 


Welcome to Critical Assessment of Primary and Secondary Sources.

This guide is intended to supplement the information that your professors may give you regarding primary and secondary sources and how they can be used in your research. This guide is intended to replace the in-person session, that you otherwise would have had with Sonia, your history/archives librarian at the Claire T. Carney Library.

Objective of this LibGuide

As a result of following the Parts of this LibGuide, you should be able to:

  • Annotate and understand primary source documents and summarize the content found in the documents
  • Analyze and interpret primary source documents to critically evaluate the perspective of the author(s), contextualize the time and culture in which the documents were created; identify and interrogate the “problems” in the documents and discuss how these impact the impact the research process.
  • Evaluate secondary sources and assess, critique and consider whether they should be used without question.


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Claire T. Carney Library
Room 237
285 Old Westport Road
Dartmouth, MA 02747