Analyzing Primary Sources
B S E R
V E Guide students with the sample questions as they respond to the
NROEIprimary source. Encourage them to go back and forth between the
TFSLcolumns; there is no correct order.
OB S E RV E
Have students identify and note details.
What do you notice first? · Find something small
but interesting. · What do you notice that you
didn’t expect? · What do you notice that you can’t
explain? · What do you notice now that you didn’t
R E F L E C T
Encourage students to generate and
test hypotheses about the source.
Where do you think this came from? · Why do you
think somebody made this? · What do you think
was happening when this was made? · Who do you
think was the audience for this item? · What tool
was used to create this? · Why do you think this
item is important? · If someone made this today,
what would be different? · What can you learn from
Q U E S T ION
Have students ask questions to lead to
more observations and reflections.
What do you wonder about...
who? · what? · when? · where? · why? · how?
F U RT h E R I N V E S T Ig AT ION
Help students to identify questions appropriate for further investigation, and to develop a research strategy for finding answers.
Sample Question: What more do you want to know, and how can you find out?
A few follow-up
For more tips on using primary
Have students compare two related primary source items.
Ask students to consider how a series of primary sources support
sources, go to
or challenge information and understanding on a particular topic.
Have students refine or revise conclusions based on their study of
Have students expand or alter textbook explanations of history
each subsequent primary source.
based on primary sources they study.