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Research Basis-How AS Works - Research: The Impact of Primary Sources

Dr. Melissa Purcell's overview of research into the impact of primary sources in teaching and learning points to important advances in the field.

Primary Sources

Educators have long advocated the use of primary sources in classroom instruction to enrich students’ understanding of content, but previously access to primary sources has been limited or hard to access.

AwesomeStories opens the gates with easy advanced search access to primary sources by providing thousands of digital sources for free. Primary sources are not limited to printed documents such as letters, newspapers, diaries, and written speeches. Artifacts (such as pottery, articles of clothing, and tools), audio (such as speeches, music, and stories), and images (such as photographs and videos) are also primary sources. 

Each Awesome Story contains, a variety of media formats (text, audio, images, videos, hyperlinks, etc.) that allows users to navigate through the primary and secondary resources to synthesize new knowledge on each topic.

As students work with primary sources, they have the opportunity to do more than just learn information; they can also analyze, evaluate, identify bias and contradiction, and examine evidence presented by the source. Primary sources enhance the learning process by allowing students to construct their own understanding of information. Issues and people that seem distant in a textbook become important and authentic in a primary resource.

Research has shown that students experience a myriad of benefits when primary sources are integrated into the curriculum. Empirical evidence from various research studies show that using digitized primary source documents, such as those available in AwesomeStories, can:

  • Promote a higher level of critical thinking including skills in analysis, evaluation, interpretation, problem-solving and synthesis (Chen and Fales, 1997; Dutt-Doner, Cook-Cottone, and Allen 2007; Kingsley, 2011; Tally and Goldenberg, 2005; Wineburg, 1991)
  • Improve comprehension and understanding of content knowledge such as history and science (Chen and Fales, 1997; Dutt-Doner, Cook-Cottone, and Allen 2007; Tally and Goldenberg, 2005; Wineburg, 1991)
  • Promote information literacy skills such as question posing, researching, evaluation of resources, and making inferences (Chen and Fales, 1997; Dutt-Doner, Cook-Cottone, and Allen 2007; Kingsley, 2011; Tally and Goldenberg, 2005; Wineburg, 1991)
  • Provide opportunities to view multiple perspectives and possibly conflicting viewpoints (Chen and Fales, 1997; Dutt-Doner, Cook-Cottone, and Allen 2007; Harris, 2002; Wineburg, 1991)
  • Offer students an opportunity to connect to history in a more personal and active manner (Chen and Fales, 1997; Dutt-Doner, Cook-Cottone, and Allen 2007; Harris, 2002; Tally and Goldenberg, 2005; Wineburg, 1991)
  • Increase curiosity and a motivation to learn (Chen and Fales, 1997; Dutt-Doner, Cook-Cottone, and Allen 2007; Tally and Goldenberg, 2005; Wineburg, 1991) 
  • Reach students with different learning styles by using sources that range from textual, audio, and image (Kingsley, 2011; Tally and Goldenberg, 2005; Wineburg, 1991)
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Author: Purcell, Melissa 20stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jun 22, 2015

Updated Last Revision: Jun 02, 2016


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Referenced Research Studies:

Chen, Eva, Corinna Fales, and Julie Thompson. “Digitized Primary Source Documents from the Library of Congress in History and Social Studies.” Library Trends, 45.4 (1997): 664-675. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/8120/librarytrendsv45i4h_opt.pdf?sequence=1

Dutt-Doner, Karen M., Catherine Cook-Cottone, and Susan Allen. "Improving Classroom Instruction: Understanding the Developmental Nature of Analyzing Primary Sources." RMLE Online: Research In Middle Level Education 30.6 (2007): 1-20. ERIC. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ801118.pdf

Harris, Frances Jacobson. "There was a Great Collision in the Stock Market: Middle School Students, Online Primary Sources, and Historical Sense Making." School Library Media Research 5 (2002): 1-21. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslpubsandjournals/slr/vol5/SLMR_GreatCollision_V5.pdf

Kingsley, Tara L. Integrating New Literacies Instruction to Support Online Reading Comprehension: An Examination of Online Literacy Performance in 5th Grade Classrooms. Muncie, IN; Ball State University Doctoral Dissertation, 2011. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.http://cardinalscholar.bsu.edu/bitstream/handle/123456789/194894/KingsleyT_2011-3_BODY.pdf?sequence=1

Tally, Bill, and Lauren B. Goldenberg. "Fostering Historical Thinking with Digitized Primary Sources." Journal of Research on Technology in Education 38.1 (2005): 1-21. ERIC. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ719935.pdf 

Wineburg, Samuel S. "Historical Problem Solving: A Study of the Cognitive Processes Used in the Evaluation of Documentary and Pictorial Evidence." Journal of Educational Psychology 83.1 (1991): 73-87. ERIC. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.http://iwt-historical-thinking.wikispaces.com/file/view/Wineburg+Historical+Problem+Solving+1991.pdf

To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"Research: The Impact of Primary Sources" AwesomeStories.com. Jun 22, 2015. Dec 13, 2017.
       <http://www.awesomestories.com/asset/view/Research-The-Impact-of-Primary-Sources-Awesome-Stories-101/1>.
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