Primary Sources Analysis Tool

This worksheet encourages students to investigate primary sources in a similar fashion to how a detective might investigate a crime. By identifying the “who, what, when, where, and why,” students will gather the information needed to engage in thoughtful primary source analysis.

Teaching with Primary Sources Exercise

Possible Discussion Questions/Topics (for the teacher):

  • What did this primary source teach you about…(insert name of person, event, etc.…)
  • What other information do you need to understand this primary source?
  • Bias/significance of point of view
  • Do you think this primary source is important? If so, why? If not, why not?
  • What stands out most to you about this primary source?
  • What is the significance of this primary source? (historical or otherwise)
  • If you could, what questions would you ask the person who produced this primary source?


  • Complete as a class (Use a projector/laptop setup and type student’s responses. Alternatively, divide your class into small groups and have each one address one part of the worksheet. One group gets “who,” one group gets “what,” etc.… Then bring everyone back together to share.)
  • Complete individually (If everyone has the same primary source, bring everyone back together at the end to compare and contrast responses. If everyone has different primary sources, have students present their sources and analysis.)
  • Complete in pairs or small groups (same as above)


  • Lead students in research project to address questions unanswered by the source itself
  • Have students “respond” to the primary source in the same format (example: if it’s a letter, the student will take on the role of the receiver; if it’s a cartoon, she’ll draw her own cartoon that expresses her opinions on the subject)

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Primary Sources Analysis Tool." (Viewed on December 3, 2023) <>.


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