Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Primary Sources

A selective guide to finding primary sources at USC and beyond

Evaluating Primary Sources

It is important to examine primary sources with a critical eye since they represent unfiltered records of the past. Below are some questions to consider once you've found a primary source(s):

RUSA's Guide to Evaluating Primary Sources

  • Who is the author or creator?
  • ​What biases or assumptions may have influenced the author or creator?
  • Who was the intended audience?
  • What is the origin of the primary source?
  • What was the significance of the source at the time it was created?
  • Has the source been edited or translated, or altered in some way from the original?
  • What questions could be answered about the time period by using this source?
  • What, if any, are the limitations of the source?
  • Does your understanding of the source fit with other scholars’ interpretations, or does it challenge their argument?

The 6 C's of Primary Source Analysis:

  1. Content - What is the main idea? Describe in detail what you see
  2. Citation - When was this created?
  3. Context - What is going on in the world, the country, the region, or the locality when this was created?
  4. Connections - Link the primary source to other things that you already know or have learned about.
  5. Communication - Is this source reliable?
  6. Conclusions - Ask yourself: How does the primary source contribute to our understanding of history?

Additional Resources

Research Guide: Primary Sources at Yale