Directions for Instructors
Comparing Primary and Secondary Sources (Time Periods)
Purpose: To demonstrate shifts in public perception of public figures over time.
The first portion of this document is intended for use by the instructor only. The final
page contains the assignment you will give to your students. [BRACKETS, CAPS, AND
BOLD TEXT] indicate an element of the assignment that needs to be changed to reflect
your specific class. If you have any questions, or would like help with any aspect of the
assignment, please don’t hesitate to contact a librarian. We are happy to help!
o You will need to review topic selection to ensure that topics can be appropriately
researched in both chosen time periods. Remember that as times change, so
does the language used to refer to topics (E.g. RVs are sometimes called “mobile
homes” but started out as “campers” and “caravanettes”). This is an opportunity
to teach students about controlled vocabularies and the difference between
databases searching and searching on the free web. Though students will be
learning about primary v. secondary sources in this assignment, they may need a
primer to set them on the right path.
o If you are having students annotate sources, you will need to give them some
background on appropriate annotations in terms of length and substance.
o Consider having students “annotate” their sources in a database activity. You
can customize fields to ensure students create actual citations in the style of your
choice (MLA, APA, etc.). You can also add a field for past and present time
period comparison and contrast.
This assignment will help students develop skills necessary to:
Define an information need
Access appropriate information (develop search terms, select appropriate databases or
other research tools, etc.)
Comply with intellectual property standards (use citations properly, avoid plagiarism,
Distinguish between primary and secondary sources in a discipline