This module is for Grades: 8-12 Welcome

Analyzing Primary Documents

> Text version for video

Let’s start with a quick review of the definition for primary source. Here’s my friend Jasmine with a reminder.

A primary source is a piece of information about a historical event or period that was created at the same time as the event itself. Its purpose is to capture the words, the thoughts and feelings of the past. Primary sources help you understand what happened and why it happened.

Primary sources aren’t just books. They can be any written documents or actual items created during a historical period. Some examples are:

  • Letters
  • Diary entries
  • Maps
  • Official records, such as birth certificates or marriage licenses
  • Personal items, such as clothes, tools or coins


In the following activities, you will learn how to examine primary sources, especially photographs, by making observations, taking time to reflect, and asking questions about the source.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Analyze primary sources using the Observe, Reflect and Question process.