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History of Co-Education in U.S. Colleges: What Can Primary Sources Tell You?: Home

Context of the Exercise

In this course, students are studying the history of co-education in American colleges and universities, especially in catholic institutions during the 20th century.

Students have already explored secondary sources and developed preliminary research questions.  We are now focusing on primary source literacy, which could be defined as "the combination of knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, and ethically use primary sources within specific disciplinary contexts" (ACRL-RBMS-SAA Task Force on Primary Sources Literacy)

Now it's Time to Play with Primary Sources

Engaging with primary sources is the essence of history research.  Primary sources help you understand the past.  However,  using primary sources can also be very challenging because of "the variety of contexts in which they have been created, preserved, and made accessible and the gaps, absences, and slilences that may exist in the materials". 

The way you search for, analyze, and interpret primary sources is different than how you you do it for  secondary sources. In this exercise we will concentrate on the analysis and evaluation of primary sources. 

What Are Primary Sources?

"Primary sources are original records created at the time historical events occurred or well after events in the form of memoirs and oral histories. Primary sources may include letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, speeches, interviews, memoirs, documents produced by government agencies such as Congress or the Office of the President, photographs, audio recordings, moving pictures or video recordings, research data, and objects or artifacts such as works of art or ancient roads, buildings, tools, and weapons. These sources serve as the raw material to interpret the past, and when they are used along with previous interpretations by historians, they provide the resources necessary for historical research."
(American Library Association, Reference and User Services, History Section)

Primary Versus Secondary Sources

Not sure about the difference between primary and secondary sources? Watch this video: