How to Evaluate Primary Sources in the High School Classroom
Developed by consultants for the College Board, as a tool to help students analyze primary documents, AP PARTS can be used with a wide range of sources. The AP Vertical Teams Guide for Social Studies, published by the College Entrance Examination Board (2001), provides information about the questions to use and suggested teaching activities. The acronym and the questions related with each letter are listed below.
Who created the source?
What do you know about the author?
What is the author¿s point of view?
Place and Time
Where and when was the source produced?
How might this affect the meaning of the source?
Beyond information about the author and the context of its creation, what do you know that would help you further understand the primary source?
For example, do you recognize any symbols and recall what they represent?
For whom was the source created, and how might this affect the reliability of the source?
Why was this source produced at the time it was produced?
The Main Idea
What point is the source trying to convey?
Why is this source important?
What inferences can you draw from this document?
Ask yourself, "So what?" in relation to the question asked.
Things to Remember
There are some cautions, however, to keep students from misusing this tool. First, always point out to students that AP PARTS is a guideline only. It should not prevent them from asking other questions of the text or making other observations. Sometimes a document provokes curiosity that a student ignores because he or she is to busy grinding through the questions. Also, not all components of a document are present in all circumstances. Even if they are, they may not all be equally significant.
Finally, encourage students to consider documents as "evidence" to weigh rather than simply "facts" to accumulate. Students need to recognize that every document provides limited information and needs to read carefully and critically.