The notes you take while reading are the first writing you do for your essay. Writers who annotate actively, responding to and asking questions of their sources, have more to say when it comes time to compose their final essays. This video tutorial introduces the techniques historians use to read primary sources, the original documents from the time period they are studying. Using an 1848 speech by women’s rights advocate Elizabeth Cady Stanton as an example of a primary source, Dr. Scafe demonstrates reading strategies to help you relate a document to its historical context and reveal the underlying themes that make it evidence of how people thought in the past.
Once you have viewed the Reading and Note-Taking Tutorial, you may also benefit from the printable “Questions for Primary Sources” sheet. These guides provide you with a more comprehensive list of the sorts of questions historians ask when interpreting their sources.