Western Libraries

Primary Source Literacy


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Want to incorporate primary source materials into your classes but don't know how to start? Want to ensure that your students have the ability to effectively interpret and analyze primary source materials? You have come to the right place! Western Libraries' Primary Source Literacy Working Group (PSLWG) has put together this resource guide in the spirit of the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.

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This guide is broken down by learning objective, and is intended to assist instructors and students in developing the skills necessary to teach and practice primary source literacy in ways that are appropriate for their local needs, disciplines, and pedagogical objectives. The learning objectives in this guide are purposefully broad, with the associated resources intended to be used as a jumping off point in incorporating primary source literacy into the classroom. These guidelines are designed to be format neutral, though some recommendations work better for certain formats over others. Instructors may choose to use any combination of the learning objectives and associated resources, with the expectation that they can be tailored to learners of different levels and backgrounds. 

What is Primary Source Literacy?

Primary source literacy is a collection of knowledge, skills, and competencies used in the understanding, interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and use of primary source materials in the pursuit of academic inquiry and knowledge creation. Primary sources vary according to discipline and format, and the ability to demonstrate literacy varies accordingly.

Information Literacy Learning Outcomes

Western Libraries has developed the following Information Literacy Learning Outcomes (ILLO) in tandem with the Western Degree Outcomes:

  • Discovery and Critical Evaluation of Information
  • Responsible Creation and Use of Information
  • Enduring Research Skills
  • Communication
  • Civic Engagement

These ILLOs will be referred to throughout this guide as a benchmark. You can read more about the ILLOs and Western Degree Outcomes on the Western Libraries website

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