The Use of Primary Sources in High School History Classrooms

Emily Paras, Briana Piche, Leah A. Nillas

Research output: Journal ArticleArticlepeer-review


“Using primary sources in history classes is all the rage” (Barton, 2005). The growing popularity of primary sources requires teachers to examine and understand the effectiveness of using primary sources in order to teach history. This research study investigated how the use of primary sources affects students’ understanding of history. Our first step in the research process was to survey students after two lessons that used primary sources and to document the students’ academic responses to the lesson. Our next step was to interview the teacher who taught the lesson using primary sources. Our final step included analyzing the data we compiled. Our results were consistent with our literature review. The benefits of using primary sources can be grouped into two major themes: developing a critical and comprehensive understanding of history and creating a relevant and meaningful learning experience for students. There is also a risk in using primary sources if they are not presented correctly. In addition to finding these results, we discovered that using primary sources helps build historical empathy in students. Our study is significant because we are contributing to a very current issue in the educational world. An Editor's Note is available at
Original languageAmerican English
JournalThe Teaching with Primary Sources Journal
StatePublished - Feb 2010


  • primary sources
  • history
  • self study


  • Education
  • Teacher Education and Professional Development

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