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Global & Eurasian History: Learning Goals for History Majors

Supports research in Global, Comparative, European, & Asian History

History Department source

The three goals identified below are taken from the list of two conceptual and five practical learning goals on the History Department website

Primary Sources

Practical Learning Goal 1: The ability to read and understand a variety of historical primary sources such as archival documents, diplomatic correspondence, journalistic reports, and private papers.

What is a primary source?  An information source from the same time period you are investigating that provides eyewitness, first-hand evidence for your topic.

      Examples: Diaries, memoirs, letters, official records, government publications, photographs, documentary film footage, interviews with eyewitnesses, news accounts by eyewitnesses, physical artifacts

      Where can I find them? Library catalog; electronic full text databases; newspaper databases; microforms; oral history databases; image, audio, and film databases


Secondary Sources

Practical Learning Goal 2:  The ability to read and understand secondary sources written in academic prose and to understand the substance of historiographical debates.

What is a secondary source? A second-hand information source based on an analysis of evidence from primary and other secondary sources.  A scholarly secondary source will usually cite primary sources for its evidence.

      Examples: Scholarly books and articles, conference papers, book chapters, newspaper reports, investigative films

      Where can I find them? Library catalog; periodical indexes; newspaper databases

Popular Literature vs. Scholarly Peer-Reviewed Literature 
(follow this link for our library guide to telling one from the other)

Analyzing and Using Different Kinds of Historical Sources

Practical Learning Goal 3: The ability to analyze information effectively and to use different kinds of historical sources to create a persuasive historical argument.

You need to evaluate the primary and second sources you find.  What should you look for?

For primary sources, pay particular attention to the author's immediacy (in time and place) to the object of your study and whether the primary source leads you to different conclusions than other primary and second sources.

Analyzing secondary sources can be more complicated.   Considerations should include

· Relevancy of resource to your topic

· Currency – are you doing a historical study or do you want only the most recent information about your topic?

· Authority/credibility/reliability of authors/editors/publishers

· Accuracy / validity

· Biases – may have an effect on the information presented

· Purpose & intended audience – this affects how the information is presented

Book reviews provide summaries and critical analysis of secondary works that can assist your own analysis.

How do reference books analyze information?  An article in one of these works can help you critically assess the primary and secondary sources you are using by comparing interpretations and identifying the most important works on a topic.


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