Primary vs. Secondary Homework Assignment

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Directions: For each number, determine which sources are primary and which are secondary. Explain your answer. 1) A. Letter from Benjamin Franklin to Vice President John Adams transmitting a petition from the Society for the Abolition of Slavery and an … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created at the time.
A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are at least one step removed from the event. This means, someone created them while looking back at the event.

How to look for primary sources?

  • Look for items that were published, written, or produced at the time of the event.
  • Look for items made by eyewitnesses, like diaries, letters, and artwork

How to look for secondary sources?

  • Look for books or newspaper articles written about events AFTER they happened.
  • Look for videos or films about events AFTER they happened.
  • Look for paintings and other artwork created about events from the past.


Posted in teaching | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sources about the Middle Colonies

This is part of a series of posts created for the 6th grade history class at the Morristown-Beard School.

Go back to Sources about Southern Colonies.

Here are some resources about the Middle Colonies:

General Information from the Independence Hall Association to get you started.


Get a sense of daily life in the city by learning more about William Penn’s vision for Philadelphia.

Did you know New York used to be Dutch? Learn more about Dutch history in the Middle Colonies.


Listen to a few short lectures by Professor Jean Soderlund about Quakers in New Jersey.

Learn more about the different religions in the Middle Colonies at this National Humanities Center website. Scroll down to the end of the page for a link to more online resources.


Slavery was not only a big part of the southern colonies, it played a significant role in the northern and middle colonies. Read this article by historian Douglas Harper to learn more about slavery in New Jersey.

Posted in internet, research, teaching | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Sources About Southern Colonies

This is part of a series of posts created for the 6th grade history class at the Morristown-Beard School.

Go on to Sources About the Middle Colonies.

Go back to Writing a Research Paper.

These are some resources about the southern colonies:

From the Independence Hall Association


Life in early Virginia was tough. This introduction to Virginia history will teach you more.

Jamestown was the first English settlement in North America. Virtual Jamestown is a digital archive that offers lots of resources to read up on geography and history.

Williamsburg was a major colonial city in Virginia. Learn more about it on the Colonial Williamsburg website.

St. Mary’s City was Maryland’s first capital. Today, Historic St. Mary’s City is like a museum and their website will provide you with more information.

Here is some information about the Southernmost colonies: North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

Learn more about Southern culture by watching this video on courtship rituals.


Jamestown, like other settlements in Virginia, became built on the tobacco trade. Learn more about tobacco by reading this statement by historian Betty Wood and this website from the National Park Service.

What did it mean to have money in colonial times? This website from the North Carolina Digital History Project explains all the different types of money used by colonists. Browse this site for more information about North Carolina.


Maryland is particularly important because it was established as a Catholic Colony.  This website will teach you more about its religious history. The Maryland Tolerance Acts established religious freedom to all Christians. 

Posted in research, teaching | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Writing a Research Paper

This is part of a series of posts created for the 6th grade history class at the Morristown-Beard School.

Go back to How to Evaluate Internet Resources.

Go on to Sources About Southern Colonies

There are a lot of things to think about when starting a research paper. Here are some resources to help you out.

Your teacher will do exercises with you to help you pick out a topic. Once you’ve decided what you want to research, you can look at a couple of websites to help you plan your paper.

Purdue University has an online writing lab called OWL. This page lays out the steps of writing a research paper.

An important part of writing a research paper is acknowledging the ideas of others. When you use someone else’s information, even if you paraphrase it, you should cite it. This guide from Capital Community College in Hartford, CT, explains more about what is considered good paraphrasing and what is plagiarism.

If you still want to learn more about how to write a research paper, you can take a look at this video made by the University of South Florida Libraries:

Posted in teaching | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

How to evaluate Internet resources

This is part of a series of posts created for the 6th grade history class at the Morristown-Beard School.

Go on to Writing a Research Paper.

You’re about to start a research assignment on the 13 Colonies. You’re probably going to want to use a lot of books, but you can also use the Internet to find information.

Using the Internet is tricky, because unlike books and journal articles, websites are not necessarily reviewed. This means, no one has to check to make sure that what is written on a website is true. So how can we tell that a website is okay to use?

We can look for a few clues to help us determine if a website is trustworthy:

  • Does the website belong to an organization we can trust? This might mean a university, museum, or library. It might even be an educational organization, TV or radio station. A university usually has a .edu in the URL. Museums, libraries, TV networks and radio stations tend to have a .org. If it is a government agency, it will have a .gov.

    You can tell this site is from Yale University by the in the address bar.

    You can tell this website is part of the PBS site because the address says

    • A good website will let you know who is responsible for the information. Sometimes they will tell you the organization or even the person who wrote the information. Usually they will give you a way to contact them.

      You can see the contact button on this site.

      No matter what, always think carefully before including Internet resources. If you have questions ask your teacher, a librarian or a parent.

    Take this quiz to test your new skills!

Posted in internet, research, teaching | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Getting the Most Out of Your College Resources

A few weeks ago, I got a call from my sister, a freshman in at the University of Pittsburgh, complaining that she didn’t have enough money to buy all her textbooks before a new semester of classes began.

“Go get the books from the library,” I suggested. “They may even be placed on reserve for you.”

“I don’t want to go to the library just to see if they have the book or not.” She responded.

I was shocked. I couldn’t believe my own flesh and blood didn’t know she could use an online catalog to search for the book.

No matter, where you go to school, your university library will have lots of resources for you to use. The first step is finding the library website. If you don’t already know the website, you should start by going to the school homepage. Usually there’s a direct link to it, but sometimes you have to click on another gateway. At my undergrad, the library link is difficult to spot, but it is also accessible by clicking on “Offices” from the homepage and then selecting “Libraries.”

link to the library page is circled in red

Once you get to the library homepage, there are several resources to be aware of. First, there’s the catalog. Use it to search for any books or materials you might need, especially if there is a specific book you’re looking for. Often, when doing research, you can find more sources in the bibliography of a book or article. Look up those titles and authors.

One thing I liked about Bryn Mawr’s system was that you could look up reserve books by the Professor’s name.

A search for a professor's reserve materials

Beyond a catalog, the library website will have a link to databases you can search, special collections, and other resources the library offers.

Pitt's library website, showing the links for the catalog and for databases

When I was in college, it took me quite a while to figure out databases. When I needed to find articles, I usually relied to Google Scholar. It wasn’t until my senior year, when I had to take a thesis seminar in research methods, that I finally understood how useful databases were. After college, I worked for a company that published academic databases. My first day at the University of Maryland, I immediately went to the library website and found their academic databases tool. 100% of what I’ve written as a graduate student involved using the database portal to find articles. Databases give you access to something you just cannot afford on your own. I will definitely miss it when my student access runs out.

The most important tool is the librarians themselves. At UMD, you can chat online with a librarian, but if that service isn’t available to you, I suggest you go and talk to a reference librarian during business hours. You don’t need to have a specific question about a book to talk to get help. As an undergrad, I liked talking to librarians at the beginnings of big research assignments, just to tell them what I was trying to do and hear what was out there.

In my opinion, learning to utilize these resources is a huge part of the educational experience. Not only does it help you do your work now, but it trains you to be a better researcher in the future. I’m hoping to do an instructional video on this topic, as soon as I can figure out which tutorial software to use.

Posted in research | Tagged , | Leave a comment