Primary sources can help you to better understand a historic period, an event, or a scientific finding. In order to get the most out of your primary source, you must use your critical thinking skills. The following guidelines are adapted from the CRAAP Test:
Currency: When was the source originally produced?
Relevance: How does it help you to understand the time period, historic event, topic, or issue in question?
Authority: Who produced the original source?
Accuracy: What is the author's relationship with the time period, historic topic, event, or issue in question?
Purpose: Why was the source written? Who was the original intended audience?
Additional consideration: Unless you visit an archive, you are not likely to see a historic document in its original form. Therefore, if you are working with a historic record, you should think critically about how the presentation of the source impacts your understanding of it: Do you have a sense of where the document came from? Has the source been altered or transcribed? Are you looking at a digital representation?
Analyzing historic photographs: See Library and Archives Canada's Decoding Photographs guide to learn more about interpreting historic images