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ORIGIN – PURPOSE – VALUE - LIMITATION. ORIGIN. When and where was the source produced? Who is the author/creator? Is it a primary or secondary source? *These can all be clues to aid in evaluating the values and limitations of the source*. PURPOSE. Why was the source produced?

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origin
ORIGIN
  • When and where was the source produced?
  • Who is the author/creator?
  • Is it a primary or secondary source?
  • *These can all be clues to aid in evaluating the values and limitations of the source*
purpose
PURPOSE
  • Why was the source produced?
  • What is the immediate historical context for the source?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What does the source “say”?
  • What can you read beyond the surface?
  • *These can also provide information to help analyze the values and limitations of the source*
value
VALUE
  • What can the source tell historians about the time-period or specific topic of study?
  • Think of a flashlight in a dark room – what does the source illuminate for the historian?
  • Important ideas:
    • Perspective of author/creator based on position, influence, geography, relationships, etc.
    • Time period importance – is it contemporary or produced at a later date (a primary or secondary source)?
    • Public or private source
limitations
LIMITATIONS
  • How is the source restricted in what it can tell historians about the time-period or topic of study?
  • Think of the flashlight/dark room – how is the light’s beam restricted? What can we not see?
  • Important ideas:
    • Bias of the source based on social class, gender, race, position, nationality, religion, etc.
    • Time of production: again primary or secondary
example
Example
  • A historian is analyzing a private entry in President Truman’s diary concerning the possible use of atomic weapons on Japan. The following is a general OPVL review. More specific analysis would make reference to details in the document.
  • Origin: President of the US, a private, primary source. Context = World War II and the aftermath of Germany’s surrender and the looming invasion of Japan.
  • Purpose: personal journal meant for later reflection and recall. Private, not public. Interpretation of what it says (literally) and what it may reflect would be based on specific document.
example1
Example
  • Value: private diary entry and thus likely to be honest and revealing; from one of the major leaders concerned with making the decision. Again, interpretations and explanations would be based on specifics within the document.
  • Limitations: only the private perspective of a high ranking government official from the US. May not reflect other individual’s opinions who were also involved in the decision-making process. Informs about the immediate decision but not later concerns. May reflect but is not the official public US government policy position or necessarily the same as US public opinion on the issue.