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Primary Sources: Using Primary Sources

JKM Library's guide for finding primary soures

How to Use Primary Sources:

Interrogate primary sources in the way that you would other types of sources.


  • What type of material is it? A text document, photograph, map, government serial, etc.
  • Where did the source originate and who created it?
  • Where does the source fit into the chronology of the period being studied?
  • Why was it created and what purpose did it originally serve? What biases may inherently or intentionally exist in it?

Answering these questions should help you determine the type of additional primary or secondary sources you need to verify your argument or develop your thesis.

Still stumped?  Try the SOAPS method and ask these questions questions about the source:

  • Subject: What is it talking about?
  • Occasion: When and where was this record created or found?
  • Audience: Who is it for?
  • Purpose: Why was it created?  Why do I care?
  • Speaker: Who is speaking?  Who created it?


More Info on Using Primary Sources