Historical Research and Critical Thinking How to Think About and Analyze Primary Sources
Archives vs. Libraries Libraries document a subject Libraries maintain single, published items Patrons do not necessarily require the assistance of a librarian
“It is no easy matter to tell the truth, pure and simple, about past events; for historical truths are never pure, and rarely simple.” -David Hackett Fischer[i][i] [i] David Hackett Fischer, Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought, Harper & Row, New York, 1970, p. 40.
Primary Sources A primary source is distinguished from a secondary source by the fact that the former gives the words of the witnesses or first recorders of an event.
What Is Historical Research? Solving an historical problem or determining historical truth A Process of analysis and interpretation of historical evidence
Critical Thinking: The Verification of facts and credibility of claims; The reliability of the sources; The detection and determination of bias; Identifying unstated assumptions; Ambiguous or equivocal claims; Logical inconsistencies or fallacies; Distinguishing between warranted and unwarranted claims; Determining the strength of an argument.
Critical Thinking and Historical Research External Criticism Internal Criticism
Internal Criticism What is the real and literal meaning of the document? Can you detect any bias or prejudice that calls into question the author’s argument? Can ascertain the truth of the author’s conclusions?