Engaging Undergraduates in Primary Source Research

Engaging Undergraduates in Primary Source Research


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Despite the plethora of primary sources that libraries have made available to their communities, the published literature thus far is largely limited to the pedagogical significance of special collections and archives. To leverage the wealth of primary sources and to explore the full potential of primary sources in the undergraduate classroom, it is imperative that the conversation include faculty members as well as librarians outside special collections and archives. The ten case studies included in Engaging Undergraduates in Primary Source Research represent the exciting work of faculty members and their librarian partners from various areas of library operations. They offer examples, strategies, and innovative ways to incorporate a wide range of primary materials into undergraduates’ diet of secondary source research, including both local archival and non-archival materials, as well as digital and physical materials and non-English language materials.

Co-authored by faculty and their librarian partners, these case studies focus on how students develop and practice skills related to finding and identifying primary information, analyzing and interrogating it, confronting interpretations, and constructing and presenting arguments using primary sources. The emphasis on transferrable skills, as well as the diversity of primary sources and teaching areas they represent, makes it easy for anyone interested to find examples from which they can draw guidance and inspiration to form partnerships and to (re)invigorate students’ learning experiences involving primary sources. Furthermore, the collaborative process and the methods to engage students in primary source research that are highlighted in these stories are not unique to primary sources. They can be easily applied in other collaborative teaching efforts involving different types of information, to create skilled student researchers, adept information producers, and informed citizens.