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ENG 104

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Bias in Primary Sources

Don't believe everything you read. Primary sources recount an interpretation of an event, they do not describe the event-as-it-happened. Remember that the person who created your document had opinions, agendas, and in some cases may be misleading you. As a scholar, you need to think critically about a document before you accept it's version of events at face value. Here's a helpful checklist to consider as you evaluate primary sources 

  1. Who created the document? What was their profession, values, beliefs, anything that might influence how they narrated a historical event
  2. Can you find two versions of the same event? For example, if you select Marcus Whitman's letters, can you also find documents or accounts of the Whitman Mission from his wife, or the native population? 
  3. Where did you find the document? If you searching for images of the Samish tribe, images you find in SAM or the tribal website are probably more credible than the images you find in a google search. 

Primary Source Collections