29 Primary or Secondary

Arley Cruthers

Activity Guidelines

Suggested Course Level

Lower level undergraduate

Activity Purpose

  • Students will think through a research question, identify sub-questions, and explore whether these are primary or secondary sources.

Materials Required

  • Laptop
  • Google Doc (or another shared editable document)

Activity Instructions

  1. Come up with a research question or have students work together to come up with one.
  2. Create a Google Doc and set the shareable link to “can edit.” Post a link to the Google Doc on the learning management system.
  3. Students can choose to work individually, in pairs or in small groups.
  4. Ask them to open the Google Doc and list as many questions as possible that they’ll need to answer in order to fully answer the research question. For example, if the research question was “How can KPU better support international students?” a sub-question might be “What does KPU currently do for international students?” or “What challenges do international students at KPU currently face?”
  5. Challenge the class to come up with 50 original questions.
  6. After students have come up with their questions, go through the questions and identify any that are not neutrally phrased. For example, a question like “Are KPU students angry about textbook costs?” isn’t neutrally phrased, so you would change it to “How do KPU students feel about textbook costs?”
  7. Next, ask students to again work alone, in pairs, or in groups to identify whether the questions can be answered by primary sources or secondary sources.
  8. If the question can be answered by primary sources, turn it pink.
  9. If it can be answered by secondary sources, turn it blue.
  10. If it can be answered by both (or the student isn’t sure) keep it black.
  11. From here, you can help students to create a source plan for their research either alone or in groups.

Debrief Questions / Activities

  • Which of these questions will be the hardest to answer? Why?
  • Pick out a few questions and ask what sources the students would use to answer this question.
  • What sources would you try to find first?
  • Who can help you find sources?

Tags: research and documentation, discussion, hands-on, whole class, creating a product or document, narrowing research questions, primary sources, secondary sources, brainstorming


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