Learning history from real people involved in real events brings life to history. For example, a newspaper article provides a view on an event or a person. An interview with a person involved in the event provides a human face for the event. Each person, no matter how seemingly insignificant, contributes to the world's story. Through researching primary and secondary sources, students become conversant with significant aspects of their topic.
It is important to differentiate between primary and secondary sources and how to assess the relative importance of each in the research. How to access, interpret, analyze, and evaluate primary sources of various kinds is crucial.
A primary source provides direct or firsthand evidence about an event, object, person or work of art. Characteristically, primary sources are contemporary to the events and people described and show minimal or no mediation between the document/artifact and its creator. As to the format, primary source materials can be written and non-written, the latter including sound, picture, and artifact. Examples of primary sources include:
A secondary source, in contrast, lacks the immediacy of a primary record. As materials produced sometime after an event happened, they contain information that has been interpreted, commented, analyzed or processed in such a way that it no longer conveys the freshness of the original. History textbooks, dictionaries, encyclopedias, interpretive journal articles, and book reviews are all examples of secondary sources. Secondary sources are often based on primary sources.
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