How to use the source sets

The BKBB project staff and CCP instructors worked together to create source sets that can be used for a variety of academic exercises. These range from simple exercises that can be done in one class session or repository visit, to semester-long projects. Here are a few examples of how the BKBB teaching materials can be used:

  • Select one source, and as a class or in small groups, perform a basic document analysis of the item. Based only on what they can see in the document itself, have students describe the source’s format, author, intended audience, date of creation, and historical context. A great tool for this exercise is the National Archives’ “Analyze a Written Document” worksheet
  • Give students a source without its source note. Have them use secondary sources (those noted in the source set and others the students find on their own or with the assistance of the professor or reference librarian), to discover what they can about the item’s author, historical context, and purpose. Have them write or present their own contextual explanation of the source.
  • Select one source for students to read and analyze. Ask students to use the source set’s list of reading questions to guide their analysis of the source. Have students write answers to the reading questions, or use them as the basis for a small group or class discussion.
  • Select two sources in a set and have students read the introductory text and both source notes. Ask students to identify a contrasting viewpoint between the two sources. Have them explain how these views are expressed in each source: what are the main points each source emphasizes; how do the sources’ format and language contribute to the authors’ arguments?
  • Have students select a source set and carefully read the primary and secondary sources. Encourage them to use the list of reading questions to guide their analysis of the sources. Ask them to consider the historical documents in the context of the history they are learning in the class to develop their own historical argument. Have them develop their thesis in an essay, citing both primary and secondary sources.
  • Have students select a source set, develop a historical argument based on those sources, and conduct additional primary and secondary research to elaborate on and refine their initial thesis. Have them write an essay based on their research.