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Primary Sources Guide

Evaluating Online Primary Sources

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