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The same goes for historian’s introductions to and editorial comments on collections of primary documents; these materials, too, are secondary sources because they’re twice removed from the actual event or process you’re going to be writing about.So while a historian’s introduction to Upton Sinclair’s novel (1906) is a secondary source, the novel itself, written in 1906, is a primary source.Exceptions include: short discussion assignments; five page analytical papers where you have been assigned the specific texts that you are analyzing.
If, for instance, you are asked why Hitler came to power, you must define what this process of coming to power consisted of.
Witnesses in court promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
All history students should swear a similar oath: to answer the question, the whole question and nothing but the question. You can write brilliantly and argue a case with a wealth of convincing evidence, but if you are not being relevant then you might as well be tinkling a cymbal.
Remember: when lost, confused etc., ask a reference librarian! [adapted in part from Peggy Pascoe’s site at the University of Oregon] A good historical question must be phrased in such a way that the question doesn’t predetermine the answer.
Let’s say you’ve decided to study the Tillamook Ku Klux Klan.