Primary Source Literacy: Definitions and Approaches to Archival Material

Sponsored by Adam Matthew Digital

Recorded on 11/08/2021
Posted in The Authority File

Episode 224

Primary source research no longer requires pulling scrolls from basement-stored archives. Thanks to modern database technology, students can easily access and interact with digital primary sources throughout their academic careers. But access doesn’t necessarily equate to expertise. What literacy skills do primary sources demand? How can librarians and faculty teach these skills with the aid of primary source databases and tools?

In this four-part series, our guests discuss today’s use of primary sources amidst technology like digitization, keyword search, and handwritten text recognition. Dr. Rebecca Crites, a research fellow at the University of Warwick, walks through how to incorporate primary sources into curricula and teach students to effectively use the materials. Felix Barnes, an editor at Adam Matthew Digital, explains how the publisher supports primary source literacy through new technology and its online learning tool Research Methods Primary Sources.

In this first episode, Becky defines primary source literacy and the skills needed to evaluate the diverse forms primary sources can take. Felix digs into Adam Matthew’s process of sourcing materials, and how its platforms guide students through their engagement with a resource. Finally, Becky offers a primer on using primary sources in the classroom. Practice, context, and inquiry are key—not simply asking if a material is useful. “I encourage students not to ask whether a source is useful—and this is quite common among first year undergraduates—because every source is useful to a researcher if they ask the right questions.”

About the guests:

Dr. Rebecca Crites
Research Fellow
University of Warwick

Felix Barnes
Adam Matthew Digital

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