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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Primary Source Guide

Questions to Keep in Mind

As you conduct your research, ask:

  • What questions do I want to answer with my research?
  • What type of source (meeting proceedings, photographs, diaries, etc.) could answer this question?
  • What kind of people or organizations might produce information that can answer my questions?

When reading the sources you find, consider:

  • Who is the author/creator?
  • What is the author/creator's purpose?
  • Is there an argument or strategy in place?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What assumptions does the author/creator make?
  • How does it relate to other information you have gathered (primary or secondary sources)?


  • Primary sources may be different depending on what you are studying
    • A book review in a newspaper is usually a secondary source -- unless you are studying how book reviews display cultural biases
  • Thinking about these questions may be more important than finding answers to them!