STARTING YOUR PRIMARY SOURCE RESEARCH

Try taking this structured path to start your investigation of these materials.

1. What do you see?

2. What is the context?

3. What is the significance?

Start this part of your investigation by formulating several statements about your understanding of the significance of the material and/or about the intentions of the creators of the materials. As you do this, stay aware of how you arrive at your conclusions. Question your own assumptions.

Now, choose one of the statements you have formulated, and ask some further questions. You may answer the questions with your own hypotheses, but it is also fine to leave the questions open‐ended, or to skip ones that do not seem to apply to this material.

Please keep in mind: there are no wrong answers (or questions) at this stage of inquiry.

Here are some possible questions for consideration (important: these are not the only questions there are to ask—they are just a jumping‐off point to help you begin asking your own):

  1. Why was this record created? What were the motivations? What was the record’s function?
  2. What general statements might you make about the entity responsible for creating these records?
  3. Stepping back even further, what statements might you make about the society that created these records? What are the society’s values? How do they differ from our contemporary society’s values, or do they?
  4. What do the records convey about a particular time and place?
  5. Who do you think was the record’s intended audience, if any?
  6. What do the records directly or indirectly reveal – about a person/institution, architecture and public space, art, lifestyle – without explicitly stating it?
  7. What are three research topics that you might use this collection to explore?